THE foreign exchange rate is not the biggest hindrance to TT’s export competitiveness, but rather, it’s the country’s ability to match prices and economies of scale against bigger rivals for market share.
“It’s not the exchange rate but the international competitiveness of everyone else. It’s the difficulty of keeping our products and services above the bar of the international standard,” Crisen Maharaj, the manager for capacity building and programme financing at ExporTT, said.
This competitive assessment, he said, was based on ExporTT analysis of the type of sales coming out of trade missions, as well as the growth of exports within companies.
“We find that companies worked within the same markets with the same output for the same period of time. It’s not that they aren’t trying to get new sales, because they were wooing new clients, but it’s how they went about doing it,” he said.
TT exports are definitely not substandard, he said, and in fact, local products are of a high quality, and some of the best from the Caricom region.
Price, however, is the biggest barricade to competitiveness. “We can’t compete on price with large producers like China when it comes to non-food exports. Regarding food exports, we can’t compete with new production methods and (cheaper, more efficient) inputs to production, like mega farms. So, what we should actually focus on is the quality of our product and differentiate products from what’s out there on the market,” Maharaj said.
What the country hasn’t been doing, or has lacked in the recent past, he said, so now the challenge is to re-engineer how to deliver service and go about exporting.
“(What have been doing) is repeat the same thing every year without actually catering for a changing environment,” he said. To help exporters, ExporTT yesterday officially launched an Export Competitiveness Project, working with 30 top tier exporters/export-ready companies, and assigning them a manager to advise and assist with improving their export potential.
ExporTT will also be partnering with the Caribbean Export Development Agency to implement the small and medium enterprise diagnostic assessment tool. The tool will provide standardised, scientific data to assess the performance of SMEs in four core areas: management, production, access to finance, and marketing.