Coke-Hamilton Sees Diversification in Agro-Processing and Cultural Industries

 

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Bridgetown, BARBADOS, November 12, 2014.  While indicating the potential for the Caribbean to grow exports of agro-processed goods and increase earnings from the cultural industries a two-day conference on exports and the private sector has heard repeated calls for more Caribbean-centric data to guide policy.

Executive Director of the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) Pamela Coke-Hamilton identified agro-processed goods and the cultural industries, particularly the latter, as key export earning areas for the Caribbean.

She told the Caribbean Exporters’ Colloquium 2014 that agro-processing accounted for 2.2 billion dollars of exports for the Caribbean in 2013 and recommended it as “a huge opportunity.” This export figure reflected a six per cent increase in exports on the previous year. She mentioned pepper sauces as one example of export success that could be built on. She also raised the interesting point of a possible comeback for sugar, arguing that new markets might have potential rather than traditional ones.

Noting that regional economic growth was projected at 2.5 per cent this year, down from three per cent in recent years the executive director said Caribbean Export had a role to export and facilitate new windows of opportunity for regional exports.

But she lamented the absence of statistics, vital to determining policy and interventions.

“Sometimes I feel we are hitting in the dark,” she continued in a feature address entitled “Making the Grade: An Examination of the Region’s Export Performance”.

“We don’t have the numbers. They are critical to design an effective framework for services,” she remarked. An objective of the opening session was to review the contribution of the export sector, how the sector compared globally and areas for improvement.

Diversification and a focus on high growth potential sectors were among the suggestions made at this second annual Caribbean Exporters’ Colloquium funded by the European Union under the 10th EDF Regional Private Sector Development Programme and supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

Coke-Hamilton contended that the cultural industries were another area where the Caribbean stood to increase export earnings and diversify economies that are mostly based on tourism. But she said she believed that earnings from the cultural industries sector were under-reported. Without relevant statistics the executive director of the Caribbean Export Development Agency asked how could policy be implemented. “We have to be able to define which areas will drive economic performance,” she remarked.

The case for reliable data was supported by President of the Caribbean Agri-Business Association, Vassel Stewart. He and other discussants described regional cocoa, coffee, hot peppers and sauces as some of the best produce in the world.

Coke-Hamilton reported that services accounted for 62 per cent of total exports in 2013 with the export of goods growing by 17 per cent and services by 12 per cent. For the cultural services, exports from CARIFORUM, comprising the 13 Caribbean Community (CARICOM countries plus Haiti and the Dominican Republic grew by almost 100 million dollars (U.S) last year compared with 2012, to 482 million dollars (U.S).

But the Caribbean Export executive director had a generally low “Report Card” for the region with Economic Performance and Conformance to International Standards both earning the highest grades of B minus.

For Global Logistics and Shipping it was C plus overall, while the Role of the Private Sector in Economic Development and Export Competitiveness earned Cs, Branding and Intellectual Property Rights and Access to Finance, C minus and Innovation and Export Diversification each received a D.

by Hallam Hope