NYBT Agroprocessing: Exploring Economic Opportunities

In observance of Global Entrepreneurship Week, the Dominica National Youth Business Trust (NYBT) once again hosted another panel discussion in the area of Agroprocessing: Exploring Economic Opportunites.

Agroprocessing, as mentioned by a representative of NYBT, is the “subsets of the manufacturing sector that processes raw materials and intermediate products derived from the agricultural sector”. He handed over to the moderator, Mr. Elias Duplis, who introduced the four panelists for the evening. Ms. Kamarsha Sylvester- M.D at Taste of Eden; Linvor Ambo- M.D of Allorzee Business Ventures Inc; J. Lloyd Pascal- Head of Export Promotion and Development Department at DEXIA (Dominica Export Import Agency); Michelle Joseph- Marketing Manager- H.H.V Witchurch & Company Ltd; and John Robin- Director of Dominica Association of Industry and Commerce.

Lloyd Pascal, the first speaker to speak on agroprocessing focused on business operations and how entrepreneurs in Dominica should make it their objective to improve sales, expand production, expand operations, explore new markets, get involved and make money. He mentioned that partnering is very important for business because of the inability of agroprocessors to meet the demand of a market. He asked that if an agroprocessor is offered a deal of 50 000 boxes of xyz, how can they do this? How often can it be done? Despite quanity, quality should be a priority, and shared facilities, joint forces and marketing can help business owners. This leaves room for generating a greater customer base, scaling up operations and exploiting markets. He noted that Dominicans do not take advantage of the regional market and focuses too much on international markets like Europe and the USA. He also believes that self-learning helps the agroprocessor develop his business in better ways for efficiency.

Linvor Ambo expressed the difficulties in agroprocessing. He mentioned that there is a lack of convenience in the business. He used the examples of mangoes, and how it is wasted in season, and demanded out of season. He expressed that innovators should find a way to preserve seasonal products to ensure business utility and customer satisfaction all year round. Addressing his business, he spoke of the issue with unskilled workers. Online marketing presence is a great way for selling your goods if marketing is a struggle for your business. He praised one of his elder workers who was very knowledgeable of his business operations, and how she successfully contributed to his business growth.

Kamarsha Sylvester gave an amazing view on trade, and how it can help a small business grow. She pointed out that a way in which business partnership can be done is through trading skills. She noted that an accountant can offer her sevices to another professional, and that professional can offer back his services to the accountant, with no other resources involved but the skill to trade. Sylvester also agreed with Mr. Ambo in his view of wastage of resources. She said that a process should be created to bring our products to the world. She believes that if we say we are the nature island of the world, then our food plate must replicate this. She said that our foods should be locally sourced to reflect us as a natural people.

Michelle Joseph said that at Witchurch there are seventy-four locally produced items. She also informed the audience of the initiative to give food baskets to captains of cruise ships to bring back to their homelands, even as far as Germany. As the head of the marketing department, she spoke a lot about marketing, especially in the area of packaging. She told us of the importance of packaging in making deals with agroprocessors in Dominica, and how they improve their products when they are told to. She said that when businesses use consumer insights to build their products then loyalty increases which is a sales boomer. She encouraged businesses to look into small consultancies in areas where they are deficient.

John Robin, very knowledgeable in the business of trade and agroprocessing, declared that 85% of foods in the Caribbean are imported and that 98% of foods on Dominican shelves are imported. He implored Dominicans to increase consumption of locally manufacutured goods. He said governments fail to capitalize in gains from agroprocessors, and choose to wait on a “white man from Europe to come and invest”. He said that support is meagre for small businesses here in Dominica, and the system does not compliment entrepreneurs. In addition, he also believes in the strategy of partnership. He expressed that proprietors tend to be greedy, but he advocated against by saying that what you can achieve in 20 years can be done in 2 if bigger companies share their resources and partner with smaller companies. He quoted that people believe in “owning their own lake, instead of 10% of the sea”, which can at times, be an unwise business venture.

The panel discussion lasted approximately two hours, with a lot of facts, opinions and question and answers.

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