Guyanese will have to curb their appetite for “Foreign” goods – Ralph Seeram


JUNE 15, 2014 | BY KNEWS – From the Diaspora…

By Ralph Seeram
Dominating the news this week is the Guyana Government’s concern over the decline in gold production, or to be more exact the decline in gold declarations. The government has discovered that large scale smuggling is responsible for the drop in declarations.
Why is this a surprise? I am sure that the government knew gold smuggling has been going on. The problem is being brought to light now because it’s now hitting the government where it hurts: “in the pocket”.
Low declarations together with declining world prices for gold is robbing the country of valuable foreign currency and increasing the deficit in balance of trade. I spoke about this dependence on gold to drive the economy some time ago, so here’s a repeat of that article.
I picked up the bottle of pepper sauce that said Guyanese Pepper Sauce and bought my brown sugar, (I do not use processed white sugar). I try to buy Guyanese made products, not only out of  Guyanese pride but I know buying Guyanese made products creates jobs for Guyanese while earning export dollars for the country. I would later discover to my surprise the “fine print” said made in Trinidad.
I will discover that Guyanese STYLE pepper sauce and Guyanese MADE pepper sauce are two different things. So now you go to the Caribbean groceries, you see a variety of products labeled Guyanese style, but really not made in Guyana.
You have to be careful about the brown sugar which a deceptive Guyanese owned Canadian company passes off as their Demerara sugar, and label it as such, but really it is made in Mauritius. Don’t let me even get in to those Cassareep labeled Pomeroon cassareep made by people who probably don’t even know where Pomeroon is.
However, what it tells me is that there is a demand for Guyanese-made products in the Diaspora, not only by Guyanese but the wider Caribbean populace living abroad.
What is disappointing is the lack of Guyanese made products on the shelves of supermarkets abroad.
Part of this has to do with Guyanese manufacturers. While they were “sleeping”, their counterparts in Jamaica and Trinidad were penetrating the markets in the Diaspora, selling from simple things like fried channa and plantain chips to sugar and rice.
Guyana, considered an agricultural country, is being “outgunned” by its Caribbean counterparts. And I can tell you why. The producers simply are not ready for “prime time”.
I will give you two examples. A few years ago there was an expo for Guyanese manufacturers to showcase their products, and quite few manufactures were there. I was then the President of the Guyanese Association here in the Orlando area, so I tried to introduce local businessmen to the Guyanese manufactures.
Believe it or not, some of them could not give price quotes for bulk quantities, could not say what the FOB prices were, or what kind of shipping costs would be involved to get the product to the US.
One guy selling lumber was confused with square feet and linear feet, did not know treated wood from kiln dried wood. The only impressive companies were the Beharry Group of Companies and DDL. Today I see their products on the shelves here.
So while there is a demand for value added Guyanese products in the Diaspora, we find in Guyana the total opposite.
I read on social media this week where one overseas based Guyanese who went back home said she was shocked when she saw a local person buying a can of “bhagee” and a can of coconut milk. That is minimal to what I saw. Back in the days, Burnham, to his credit (regardless of the motives), pushed using local products. In some cases there was no choice. Today in the US with the proliferation of Chinese goods and inferior products at that, you are seeing labels that say “Proudly made in the US”.
Guyanese go back to Guyana and want to drink Banks beer, the locals want foreign; the visitor wants good old Guyanese Rum, considered the best in the world, and Guyanese are craving foreign “liquor”.
I go and want to drink things made in Guyana and I see Guyanese proudly drinking soda made in Barbados and Trinidad.
I find that the Guyanese at home feel all things “foreign” are better; it seems as if they gain status by eating, wearing and using things “foreign”.  I saw some time ago on YouTube two local women “busing” each other for the affection of their male lover.
At one point one of the women displayed a handful of panties to her rival, holding the handful of panties in the air for all to see, saying “this is from Victoria Secret”. I don’t know if wearing Victoria Secret panties gave her an advantage over her rival, but I doubt if any man looks to see the label of a woman’s panties. He is mainly concerned with getting it off.
But back to the serious side, the Guyanese economy is showing signs of cracking; Guyana is experiencing Balance of Trade Deficits. I don’t care how you put it, if you spend more than you earn it catches up with you. The proliferation of foreign goods in Guyana, including cars, is hurting the Guyanese economy already. The exchange rates are going up and will continue to go up.
The Guyanese economy depended largely on gold exports. Forget about the traditional three pillars: sugar, rice and bauxite. It was gold that kept the economy alive, along with remittances from the Diaspora. Some will also argue that the white powder that is NOT cassava flour, or regular flour, but baked into pastries, placed in fruits, vegetables, lumber and other ingenious methods to export is also helping to drive the economy.
Guyana has already seen how the dependence on gold exports is risky business. Gold prices decreased to one-third of its peak value in recent years. Besides being a depleting source, it is subject to speculation of the world market.
Forget about all this talk of the economy growing every year. The problem is that exports are not keeping up with imports, and while Guyanese are wasting valuable foreign exchange importing fresh flowers, the time is rapidly coming when they may have to choose between flower and flour.
This may sound far-fetched for some, but if they continue this trend they will find that they will have to pay more for their appetite as the Guyana dollar continues to devalue. Remember also that all those borrowing on those ‘big’ projects have to be repaid with interest.
Guyanese need to be educated on the value of using local products; they need to understand that it is money coming back into their pockets by way of more employment opportunities.
Local manufactures need to step up to get their products to foreign markets.
There are foreign investors willing to invest in Guyana, but the “push around” they get by the uncoordinated efforts of the various manufacturers discourages them.
I was told by a source that was responsible for promoting trade in Guyana that when investors go to places like Trinidad and Jamaica, the process is smooth and encouraging. In Guyana it’s a NIGHTMARE running around various Ministries to get required paperwork, permits. The concept of one clearing house is broken. Then we have the cases where those in power use personal vindictiveness to stifle local investors.
Yes, whether its foreign made panties, flowers or liquor, Guyanese will have to curb their foreign appetite, or pay the price. They are already paying it to buy scarce US dollars.
Ralph Seeram can be reached at ralph365@hotmail,com

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  • Cyril Balkaran  On 06/21/2014 at 1:53 am

    The Trinidad Economy is one robust economy based on oil and natural gas, asphalt and urea, ammonia etc, yet our Finance Minister keeps asking the 1.2 million population to curb its foreign appetite as he pays one billion $US for foreign goods. This is an economy that is not based on gold mining. There are too many South Americans who obtained mining liscences over the past 5years. The gold board was advised to stop granting such liscences to foreigners but did nothing about this so smuggling our gold to Suriname became the next port as such and the rates and taxes on gold are lower here.
    No one listens neither checks on these matters. The killings in the goldmines are smuggling related and operated by Brazilians and venezuealans. This is the price we pay for lack of vigilance in the mining industry.

  • gigi  On 06/21/2014 at 6:03 pm

    Unbalance foreign/global trade is what has gotten the US economy in the ugly mess it’s in. So called “free trade” agreements solely benefit the US or, more specifically, US corporations and result in extreme exploitation of poor countries and their peoples. Guyana should be watching and learning from the mistakes of “too big to fail” countries that are on a free fall – failing miserably and heavily. Guyana should be preparing to avoid burning with Rome when the fire spreads. And spread it will. Fires are destructive, reckless, and malicious.

  • Albert  On 06/23/2014 at 1:24 am

    Very interesting article by Ralph Seeram. Guys like you tell me maybe there is still hope for Guyana.Much in this article could have been written 30 years ago. For a multiple of reasons Guyana never develop an effective policy to promote the exportation of Guyanese Products, You mention Banks beer. I though Daguiar was the original producer and supplier of Banks beer. In the 90’s I found banks beer in Brooklyn stores exported by manufacturers in Barbados. Never got to the bottom of this coup by Barbados.

    I observed in an article on this blog that Barbados exports cotton. That Guyana with all the land in the world is not an exporter of cotton shows gross incompetence by our business community. Actually an attempt was made in the 80’s but no need for details.
    You are right Guyanese have an enormous appetite for the consumption of foreign products. There were attempts at providing local substitutes: cassava flour…..a disaster. Shark saltfish …… this had some success don’t know what happened in the long run. Then “five finger’ was used to substitute for imported prunes and it tasted like the real thing. Guess it never got going. Guess Guyana’s failure would be good topic for a PHD dissertation.

  • de castro  On 06/24/2014 at 11:41 am

    absolute hilarious laughter…..if not I would CRY …..
    UK and USA can afford subsidies to their manufacturers….politicians lobbied by their corporations….for TAX breaks etc etc

    manufacturing and packaging is big business in developped countries.
    In guyana it is “solo” …. small trader converting raw product to market.

    small businesses should be offered TAX breaks/incentives etc to set up manufacturing for
    local markets….once local markets established “excess” can be exported….

    BIg businesses in GUYANA are not to be “subsidised” or they will just
    eat up the small businesses……but politicians may be “in pocket” by the big
    businesses subsidies….also in UK USA similarities do occur ….but on a much more “legal” framework….scratch my back and I will scratch yours.

    The guyana government must encourage small entrepenurs to develop
    into viable manufacturers of quality products…..with local raw materials.
    …not imported raw materials…..if not it is doomed to fail for its dependancy
    on foreign raw materials…..

    OR GUYANA will become a “giant assembly plant” of foreign goods with its profits used to increase global domination.

    In spain we have many CHINESE retailers who market only chinese manufactured finished products of very poor quality …..but hey they
    serve the poorer consumers of spain well….not sure how much TAX the spanish
    get from their “trade”….as I suspect there is “CORRUPTION” big time.

    Very few employ Spanish nationals….as they will have to declare and pay
    them the minimum wage ….a european dilema !

    catch 22 I guess.

    Before I left UK I saw VENEZUELAN mangoes for sale …fresh rosy ripe sweet juicy mangoes flown in by air from caracas ….needless to say 2pounds each or
    2 for 3pounds…..obviously there is a market for fresh produce from southern
    countries….maybe at subsidised “air fare” rate….

    in same shop (lebanese owner) there was sugar cane 1 metre sticks for pounds 5 each three for 10 pounds…..imagine that….a stick of sugar cane for a fiver
    crazy world we live in……

    that guy in stabroek market who crushes the sugar cane and sells the juice
    should be encouraged to supply the local market with his juice in cartons or bottles hygenetically produced.

    opportunities abound in guyana but as the saying goes…

    you can take the donkey to the water but you cannot make it drink.

    I point my finger at the “status quo” politicians and big business who sleep in
    the same bed enjoy….

    if they do not have a “mistress” or “lover”

    in hilarious laughter.


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