By Stanford Conway

The Observer

ST. KITTS — “With the right direction of our future trade arrangements with MERCOSUR and other Latin American countries, I foresee the manufacturing sector making a larger contribution to the Federation’s Gross Domestic Product and employment as the players in the electronics sub-sector seek to penetrate the Latin American market in the medium to long terms.”

This is one of the sentiments posited by the Chairman of the St. Kitts and Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce’s Manufacturers Division, Mr. Adam Lynch.

In an exclusive interview, Lynch said that with the current move away from sugar production to an economy, which is more service and, moreover, tourism oriented, linkages should be forged between the tourism and manufacturing sectors.

“There are numerous opportunities for the manufacturers of jams, jellies, peppers and essences, among other items, to market their products to hotels in ever-increasing quantities if the necessary product standards are achieved.

“To this end, we need the support of the local hotel industry to reach out to our manufacturers and assist them in anyway possible in forging such a partnership,” Lynch said.

He however criticised many of the local products showcased at the recently concluded Caribbean Agricultural Fair, noting some of them were either poorly labelled with insufficient information with regards to name and location of the manufacturers, ingredients, batch numbers, volume and other data that consumers would look for when faced with a choice.

“These products,” he added, “will face an uphill battle in local supermarkets when displayed side by side with similar imported goods on the shelves. Therefore, local manufacturers must strive for higher standards in order to be successful in this highly competitive field.”

Lynch noted some of the Division’s achievements for the current year, including the successful hosting of the Manufacturer’s Awareness Week after a one-year lapse and members participation in regional trade shows in which new markets were discovered in the Caribbean, Latin America and Asia.

Highlighting some main areas of concern, the Chairman noted Nevis’ absence of membership in the Manufacturer’s Division and hoped that all manufacturers in the Federation would be involved in future annual regional exhibitions and seek to extend their target markets.

“We need to take the business of manufacturing forward and we can only do this successfully with the full participation of all concerned. This is a situation in which I see us sharing ideas for the promotion of trade and the formulation of the necessary trade policies and arrangements,” Lynch posited.

He also highlighted some of the constraints faced by the manufacturing sector, noting it has lent itself to be heavily dependent on stable costs of production as manufacturers, in more cases than not, enjoyed fixed prices for their products over extended periods.

“As such, given the steep increases in the price of crude oil along with the impending increase in the cost of fuel and, moreover, electricity charges in the Federation, manufacturers of electronic items and other components are now facing severely depressed margins and decreasing returns to capital,” he added.

Lynch however sees the division playing an important role during Cricket World Cup 2007 despite licensing agreements, which would prohibit businesses from marketing their products at or near Warner Park.

He stated that there were lots of locally manufactured products that have great sales potential, some already well established in the Federation, and with new legislation (Equipment Leasing), the formation of an investment promotion agency, technical assistance and possibly soft financing, more manufacturers would also come to the fore.

“We need to gear up our manufacturers to reap some of the benefits from the Federation’s hosting of Cricket World Cup 2007. We have to seek to aggressively target new membership.

“Thereafter, technical assistance must be sought to enable our manufacturers in facing the challenges of the marketplace through upgrading their product packaging, labelling and presentation and, most important, letting the customer know the ingredients of the products that are being offered for sale…” Lynch emphasised.