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by Emmanuel Joseph

Faced with flat output during the first half of this year and difficulties retaining jobs, the manufacturing sector in Barbados has come up with a strategy, which it hopes would help businesses weather the ongoing economic downturn.

In an interview with Barbados TODAY this morning, President of the Barbados Manufacturers Association, David Foster, said the thrust was for local businesses to buy from each other.

“One of the main things we’ve been trying to do, and I think quite successfully, is to sensitise many of the industries how important it is to support one another,” Foster stated.

“We’ve had Banks Holdings, who have made a policy right across their group, to get all of their purchasers to buy as many local products as possible. This can be promotional material, this can be packaging, this can be letterheads.

“So what we are trying to do is to make sure all of the manufacturers support one another.”

He suggested that this was a critical time when foreign exchange was an issue, “and if we can purchase from one another — everything from soap to hand towels, to toilet tissue, and all of those are manufactured and made here — we are making sure as manufacturers we support one another”.

As far as proposals to cut costs are concerned, the BMA head submitted that everyone was watching their expenditure carefully.

“As manufacturers we are facing challenges where we have markets that are challenged. As an exporter, if you are exporting into anywhere in the OECS, they have the same challenges we have in Barbados, with high unemployment and low spending…, so everyone is just watching very carefully, how their spend,” he asserted.

However, Foster noted that some of the manufacturers were always looking for an opportunity to install new equipment so that when there was a turn around, they could benefit from increased production. He pointed out that while exports had dropped slightly, some manufacturers were till holding their own on the overseas market.

“But basically, if I can speak for Roberts Manufacturing, we still are a major exporter, 68 per cent of our shortening and margarine and 38 per cent of our vegetable oil is still exported. I think Banks has been doing very well. We saw Preconco the other day exporting piles; so I think everyone is trying to get into export,” the prominent manufacturer observed.

He argued that with a certain level of stagnation in the Barbados economy, more and more players would have to look to get into the export business. Foster also told this newspaper that it had been “very” difficult for manufacturers to avoid sending home workers during the past year.

He said while “not a lot” of businesses had closed, “many of us had made a commitment, not to lay off staff”.

“We fully understand the implications of laying staff off,” Foster said. “Many of our staff members will have loans, they will have mortgages and have a commitment to maintaining their families. So it has been difficult… The union has been very good in terms of working with us to try and make sure that we maintain employment even though we’ve had a slight drop off in terms of volumes.”

The BMA president was of the view that “the more we can support one another, the better we can weather the storm”.

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