MIRAMAR – At the recently held Caribbean Trade and Investment conference, several key products were identified which could produce a significant return on investment.
Coconut, Pepper, Livestock Identified Among Key Caribbean Products For Investment
Investment in the production of coconuts and coconut products including coconut water and virgin coconut oil; hot pepper production and value added processing; livestock; aquaculture; sheep and goat and root crops in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) region has been identified as key products for which the return on investment would be attractive while helping the region to reduce its whopping $4.5 billion (US) food import bill and to generate employment.
Barbados sea island cotton and sour sop were also identified as crops with significant value added potential.
This was the main message given to participants in the CARICOM/CUBA/FLORIDA Trade and Investment Conference held February 10 – 11, 2016 at the Miramar Cultural Center, Miramar, organized by Caribbean Outreach Program of Outreach Aid to the Americas (OAA) in conjunction with the Greater Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce (GCACC), the Barbados American Chamber of Commerce (BACC) and the newly formed Guyanese American Chamber of Commerce (GACC).
In declaring the conference open, Dean of the CARICOM diplomatic corps in the United States, Ambassador Bayney Karran of Guyana pointed to the importance of food security, fiber and nutrition, fuel production, fashion and health products and furniture and craft as wealth generators for the Caribbean which are dependent on agriculture production as a base.
In his keynote address at the working lunch, Minister of Trade and Investment of Belize Rafael Contreras spoke of the encouraging incentives that countries in the region offer investors as well as the friendly and welcoming climate in which to conduct business. He encouraged participants to examine carefully the investment opportunities so that they could determine for themselves how lucrative these can be.
During the course of the conference the Trinidad and Tobago based Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute (CARDI) presented a range of investment profiles of business opportunities in the Caribbean region. CARDI’s Executive Director Barton Clarke outlined the details of these opportunities including preferred cultivation and processing methods, the legal framework for land acquisition, the relationship with private farmers and regional and international markets.
Preferential access to international markets for products from the CARICOM region through trade and partial scope agreements was outlined by Dr. Mark Kirton, Director (ag.) at the Institute of International Relations at the University of the West Indies (UWI) who pointed out that apart from traditional markets like the US and the United Kingdom, there is preferential access to key market in Latin America particularly Brazil.
The conference heard from the Mayor of the City of Miramar Wayne Messam and from Broward County, Florida Foreign Trade Zone Operator Robert Jacob about the operations of the foreign trade zones here and how these might be used to reduce cost and make exports from the Caribbean more competitive in international markets.
Mayor Messam joined with Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness in pointing to the strategic mutually beneficial relationship between the Caribbean including Cuba and South Florida that must be further strengthened.
Cuba’s relationship with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nations was identified as a key mechanism in the effort to strengthen the trilateral Cuba/CARICOM/FLORIDA relationship in pursuit of the business opportunities now available in Cuba.
A panel of leading experts on Cuba including Dr. Teo Babun of BG Consultants, business writer Doreen Hemlock and Mercedes Costa of Destination Management Consultants agreed that the strengthening of commercial links among the three parties would be in the best interest of the people of Cuba, CARICOM and Florida.
The conference also heard presentations on financing trade and investment from Ms. Gabrielle Mandel, Manager, Southern Cone and Brazil at the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA); Oscar Spencer, former country manager at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB); Dr. Barton Clarke of CARDI and Mr. Karl Chung of CGI Financial Group.
Participants lamented the access to financing for agricultural development in the Caribbean and urged that Caribbean governments take steps to encourage regional and international financial institutions of which they are members to review their lending policies for investment in agriculture.