Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Think ‘Caribbean’

Companies across the region are being told that the time is ripe to increase exports of their products, not independently, but jointly under a Caribbean Brand label.

Executive Director of the Caribbean Export Development Agency, Pamela Coke-Hamilton, is certain the Caribbean Brand can work but, she explained during an interview with The Grenada Advocate, it would require all the players in the various sectors to embrace it and come on board.

“It has its own recognition. Whenever we call the word Caribbean, people immediately have a picture in their heads, just like if you call the word Hawaii… So how do we capture and market that? How do we capture and market that in our agro products? How do we capture and market in our sports? How do we capture and market in our overall service sectors; having that common brand and allowing that to drive our agenda?”

Executive Director of the Caribbean Export
Development Agency, Pamela Coke-Hamilton.
She added, “If we are going to do it, it needs to be now, because basically we are wide open and if we do manage to get a Canadian agreement … that would also be another huge market that we need to look at and exploit.”

The executive director’s comments came as she noted that the Caribbean Brand concept is already being utilised by Caribbean Export, but they want to take it to the next level. According to Coke-Hamilton, in the execution of study tours and export promotion exercises, her organisation brings as many representatives as possible from across the region and places them under a Caribbean Brand umbrella.

Using the examples of the Caribbean Essence Fashion Showcase, a Caribbean Export project, as well as Caribbean Kitchen which was present at Anuga, the largest food and beverage fair in the world, Coke-Hamilton explained that both have shown that high quality products do come from this region and can stand on their own in the international arena. She noted that of the five fashion designers who went to Berlin, Germany for a showing through the Caribbean Essence initiative, three were able to
secure orders; while in the case of Anuga, three Caribbean companies were named in the top 50.  

“How does that happen? Because we are excellent, we do have that level of excellence. So it is now a question of seeing how we can expand the pie so that more of us are able to take advantage of that,” she noted.

With that in mind, Coke-Hamilton was at pains to point out that not everyone needs to go to market, explaining that rather than trying to create a sustainable product, some persons may do better business-wise if they become part of the value chain.

“You can be the pepper guy; you don’t have to make the sauce. I can be the water, you can be the cranberry; you can be the bottle stopper; you can be the paper brander. Everybody has their role to play in the value chain and what we need to understand is to play to your strengths; be part of that value chain that would eventually get us to market.”

To that end, she explained that Caribbean Export’s vision for a Caribbean Brand Label would ensure, for example, that all the pepper sauces from all across the region have a single brand which has a stamp of approval which indicates it has met international standards such as ISO and HACCP. Such a move, she noted, would also ensure that manufacturers are able to meet the demand for products and earn much needed foreign exchange for the region.

“Most of us cannot meet market demand for many of our products individually, but we could meet it jointly. If we are able to come together and produce certain products jointly under a common brand, just imagine what the outcome would be in terms of sustainability [and] consistency of supply, which is one of the big issues.

“If we had 15-member states producing under one brand, could you imagine the ability to guarantee that we would be able to provide this cocoa, this coconut, this pepper sauce, under one brand to all the markets across Europe? It would be phenomenal! We did it with sugar years ago, didn’t we? We did it with bananas, so why can’t we do that for other products?”

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