Export booster for Tobago entrepreneurs

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Senator Paula Gopee-Scoon, Minister of Trade and Industry and Deputy Chief Secretary and Secretary of Finance and the Economy, Assemblyman Joel Jack. – THA PHOTOS

Aiming to double exports by 2025, 40 of Tobago’s entrepreneurs now have the opportunity to benefit from a special programme under the n ational export booster initiative for the manufacturing sector 2021.

Launched in Trinidad recently, the Tobago edition of the initiative was launched last Monday by the Ministry of Trade and Industry at the Victor E Bruce Financial Complex in Scarborough.

Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon said Cabinet had approved an export booster initiative for the manufacturing sector valued at $50 million, adding that the manufacturing sector remains an important and dynamic sector in the domestic economy. She said the initiative is made up of 16 programmes under three broad strategic areas: export promotion, capacity building and institutional strengthening.

Specifically, she said the sub-sectors covered under the initiative include food and beverage; leather and other craft products; textile, garments and footwear; chemical and cleaning products; beauty and personal care products; environmentally-friendly packaging; printing; wood products and agro-processing.

“There are a large number of innovative entrepreneurs within these sectors in Tobago, and therefore this initiative provides a major opportunity to transform these entrepreneurs into successful exporters,” Gopee-Scoon said.

She said in designing this initiative, consideration was given to the unique challenges faced by Tobago companies.

“This…Tobago Capacity Building Programme to Develop New Exporters will provide tailored support to 40 Tobago-based businesses to address logistical challenges, access to financing and funding, market entry and on-the-ground marketing in target countries, and product development, modification and testing as they seek to penetrate export markets. Individualised consultancy support and training will also be provided to companies to fill the gaps in transitioning into exporting. Extensive e-commerce support to enable business-to-business and business-to-consumer sales of small-batch, high-margin specialty products will also be provided,” she said.

She said a clear example of the possibility of converting Tobago companies into exporters is the most recent recipient under the Grant Fund Facility, J Mac Industries.

J Mac Industries, she said, has been working closely with exporTT and has seen an increase in revenue, production capacity and competitiveness.

“They are making significant strides in entering the Caricom market. We have also seen other success stories from other Tobago companies in the fashion and beverage sectors,” she said.

THA Secretary of Finance and the Economy Joel Jack described the launch as both important and timely.

“It is occurring against the backdrop of the covid19 pandemic, which continues to decimate economies around the world. Although here in TT our epidemiological management of the covid19 pandemic has been stellar, the pandemic has severely impacted our economy and just like the rest of the global community, the assembly and the Central Government are tasked with restructuring our economy as we seek to rekindle economic growth,” he said.

He added that critical to this is the need to boost exports, particularly outside the energy sector.

“Not only are we grappling with the covid19 pandemic, but we are also grappling with the situation where the prices of our country’s primary exports – oil and natural gas – have been severely depressed, coupled with declining production levels. These depressed energy prices continue to manifest itself in foreign exchange shortages.”

He added: “I am particularly happy that the Ministry of Trade and Industry included a Tobago-specific component as part of this broader initiative. Under the Tobago Capacity Building Programme, Tobago’s businesses will benefit from a myriad of capacity-enhancement training programmes in areas such as access to financing; marketing; product development and testing; and e-commerce. I know that many entrepreneurs in Tobago will benefit immensely from this programme.”

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