THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine has advised the island’s agro-processors to develop plans for safeguarding the intellectual property rights for their products.
He was delivering the feature address on Thursday at the Tobago Agribusiness Development Company’s (TADCOs) product launch and exhibition at the Gardenside carpark, Scarborough. The event was titled Transitioning Agri Business in Tobago.
“I want to tell you that part of your business plan must be a plan for safeguarding intellectual property rights because you cannot just come up with something that is a wonderful product and don’t think that the scrooges won’t steal your product idea and want to replicate it,” he said.
“So, you come up with something good and great. You have to patent your product. You have to pay attention to your copyright and ensure you do due diligence.”
Augustine said TADCO will also help them to protect what is rightfully theirs, “So that you can produce at maximum and avoid some of the unecessary competition.”
However, he said agro-processors must be willing to compete in any market.
“If you are making pepper sauce in 2022, you have to compete with Chief, Grace and all of those larger companies that are rolling out different lines of pepper sauce.
“Don’t think for a moment that you don’t have to compete. And so, the question will always be, ‘How is my product so unique that someone else will want it? How is my product so superior that someone else will want it?’”
As such, Augustine urged them to also focus on ensuring their products are consistent and of the highest standard.
“Because if your product is to do well, you can’t come out to a fair like this and your product is of A-class standard and you put your best foot forward and all of the right ingredients and then when you are ready to make it for the supermarket shelves, you water down the product so much that the pepper sauce running like juice.
“You have to pay attention to consistency and quality if you are to continue to do well. That is an important facet that will help you to be competetive.”
Using pepper sauce as an example, Augustine said during his visits to the supermarket he usually bypasses the big name brands “because I am not looking for pepper sauce that look gooey and whitish as though it is full of starch.
“I am looking for a proper-quality product and that is what I expect from you, our agro-processors. I will always bypass the big names for your local small names because I expect a higher-quality product.”
He revealed the THA will soon embark on an initiative to monetise Tobago as a brand.
“Everybody knows that brand Tobago is a superior brand to anything else. In fact, it is even superior to our neighbour’s brand in many aspects.
“You just catch the boat and go down to Port of Spain and stand up on a corner with a piece of sign and it mark up Tobago chennette or Tobago mango, it sell out faster than anything else.
“Why? Because there is a perception that already exists that if the product is coming from Tobago, it is of a higher quality. It is much more likely to be organic, much more likely to be safer. People have developed this product with a lot more dignity. That is something we can monetise.”
Augustine said Tobago’s products must be branded to ensure they are easily distinguishable.
“There must be a unique branding on all of our products so that when anyone in the world sees it, they can say ‘This comes from Tobago. And because it carries this brand, we are certain it meets certain quality control measures, we are certain it is of a very high quality and we are certain that it is well worth the money being spent, even if it is of a higher cost.”
In his address, Augustine also lamented the absence of food labs in Tobago.
“In 2022, we still do not have food labs in the island. Agro processors still have to cart their goods to Trinidad down to CARIRI (Caribbean Industrial Research Institute) or one of those established food labs to get their things properly tested so that they can meet the sanitary conditions and the kind of health, safety and legal requirements that are necessary.”
He said this should not be the case because under the seventh schedule of the THA Act 40 of 1996, CARIRI, by law, is required to provide this service on the island.
“It baffles me that that has been the law since 1996 and CARIRI is yet to provide this service on the island of Tobago. I want to assure you that that is the last year for that.”
Augustine said he dispatched a letter to CARIRI last week seeking clarification on the issue.