Castries, November 13, 2015: Saint Lucian exporters are now back from a five day trade fair in Cuba and report clear prospects upon which they can build. Most exhibitors report that they have secured invaluable contacts, open access to the trade agency PRO-Cuba, through the Ministry of Commerce and TEPA, and in the case of Chemico, a prospective buyer. FIHAV is one of the most significant regional trade shows in Latin America, which showcases the latest technological achievements from numerous countries.
The 33rd edition of the FIHAV 2015 Trade Fair, the biggest recorded in 15 years, attracted the hundreds of international companies seeking to do business in the Cuban market. This year FIHAV registered 300 Cuban companies and 600 from 70 other countries including Saint Lucia. Caribbean Awnings, Harris Paints, Viking Traders, Natmed, Chemical Manufacturing and Investments Co. Ltd, Saint Lu Metal and Plastic Manufacturers Ltd and Baron Foods Limited participated in the weeklong celebration of commerce in Havana which ran from November 2 – 7, 2015.
TEPA’s Marketing & Promotions Officer Andrena Simon says that the Havana Showcase proved an ideal platform to introduce Saint Lucian products to the Cuban and Latin American and other markets, and a valuable opportunity for the manufacturers to assess the market and evaluate foreign competition and create new business opportunities. Key Cuban decision-makers and purchasers from industrial and commercial state entities were on hand, as well as import enterprises. This, Ms. Simon lauded as “a huge advantage” as decision-makers use this one-week event to negotiate contracts with foreign suppliers, learn about new technologies and products, meet new exporters/importers and strengthen relationships with established suppliers.
The Saint Lucia Trade Export Promotion Agency (TEPA) has come in for high praise for its strategy to propel Saint Lucia exporters into the Cuban market. The “pencil point” strategy, indicated TEPA CEO Jacqueline Emmanuel Flood, pre-dates the existence of a TEPA Council, now chaired by Baron Foods CEO Ronald Ramjattan. She explained that the bureaucracy of the Cuban market necessitated the use of a pilot brand that was already meeting the rigors of international trade. Given Baron’s success in that regard, TEPA negotiated an agreement with the brand to be so used, and in exchange, Baron would pave the way for other export-ready producers.
Validation of TEPA’s report has come from some of the exhibitors. Harris Paints Cathy Charles described the experience as “very rewarding” not just for her company, which came away with prospects for follow up, but for the entire delegation as a result of TEPA’s proactivity in securing business to business meetings with prospective buyers. Paula Calderon, CEO of Caribbean Awnings expressed hope in a new connection established with the PRO CUBA trade facilitation agency.
“We are extremely thankful that we could accomplish in one mission, what it took Baron Foods three years to accomplish, because Baron took on the challenge to pave the way for other manufacturers. We can report that we have made a very promising contact with windows and doors manufacturer from Spain,” reported Ashley Chitolie of Saint LU Metal Works.
According to Hon. Emma Hippolyte who also formed part of the Saint Lucia delegation, this year FIHAV 2015 reflected a noticeable ‘first’ – a distinct electric buzz of business hustling to capitalize on what many feel will be a boom set off by the start of the normalization of relations with the U.S. “Having access to this type of forum where first world export conditions are up close for scrutiny is a tremendous opportunity for the kind of market analytics our exporters need to concern themselves with. It is now an open global market and we must compete,” concluded Minister Hippolyte. She went on to say that TEPA’s bold approach is being supported by a government to government dialogue that has been ongoing with Cuba for the last two years, and effectively brokered through Dr. Charles Isaac, Saint Lucia Ambassador in Cuba.