A local manufacturer has diversified its services in the printing sector in order to rise above the challenges of the covid19 pandemic.
Eniath’s Printing Co Ltd (EPCL) has been a family-owned and operated business for over 30 years and is based at Eteck Industrial Park, Frederick Settlement in Caroni.
On Wednesday morning, sales manager Isa Mohammed led a tour of the facility which included Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon, members of the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce, and members of the media.
The company’s focus has traditionally been the publishing of textbooks for the educational sector throughout the English-speaking Caribbean. In the late 1990s, it expanded its portfolio to include commercial printing to include business cards, letterheads, envelopes, presentation folders, fliers, brochures, catalogues, annual reports, desk planners, wall planners, calendars, menus, invitation cards, variable data printing, book sewing, book binding, laminating and coating.
Shortly before the onset of the pandemic, the company in 2018 started diversifying by entering the packaging/folding carton market to service local and regional markets.
Their work is quite familiar and can be seen in everyday products in the food and beverages industries.
In spite of being able to operate throughout the lockdowns, general manager Naim Khan said the company had to find alternatives to stay afloat because their largest consumer base, schools, was now operating virtually, with most learning materials being offered in a digital format.
“Our book production has declined by 20 per cent to 25 per cent. Packaging production on the other hand only recently started and at the moment it is about 25 per cent of overall sales and it is growing,” he said.
It was one of the many tours Gopee-Scoon continues to embark on as the ministry seeks to provide support and incentives to stimulate growth and development of local businesses.
The tours and site visits, she said, were aimed at providing insight into companies operations, diversification efforts, use of new equipment and technology to remain locally and globally competitive and future plans for growth and expansion.
“It is a challenging time for all businesses, but yet still there are several of them that felt confident enough to continue their investments knowing that covid19 would not be with us forever and businesses continue notwithstanding covid19,” Gopee-Scoon said.
She added that increased export capacity to the region has worked well for the company and by extension the country’s economy.
Gopee-Scoon said, “Jamaica is a substantial market with three million-plus people and across the English-speaking Caribbean they (EPCL) is the largest printers with some of the printing capabilities.
“In the last few years, they have gotten into the food packaging and that’s where substantial investments, and while I can’t disclosure the exact amounts, it is in the region of $20 million-plus. Those kinds of investments were done in the last two to three years.”
She said the company’s standards, including the BRCGS – an international food safety certification in 2020– gave them additional leverage in the packaging sector.
According to its website, BRCGS (Brand Reputation Compliance Global Standards) is a brand and consumer protection organisation that provides certification of manufacturers and suppliers in over 130 countries. Its certification reflects the standardisation of quality, safety and operational criteria as well as ensuring manufacturers fulfil their legal obligations and provide protection for consumers.
Certification was extremely important, Gopee-Scoon said, and can be costly to attain, and while EPCL funded their own certification, ExporTT and the ministry has a fund set up to assist businesses in getting the necessary credentials to operate.
“Last year in the budget, the Minister of Finance would have allocated $50 million for the Export Booster programme and it was only then we started to put together the various facets of it and it was only a few months ago we launched the certification programme.
“For them to achieve the BRCGS would have cost them in excess of $1 million. ExportTT is providing that grant facility dependent on the size of the company, the turnover and so on, we may do 50 per cent, 75 per cent or 100 per cent (of funding),” Gopee-Scoon said.
She added that the packaging and printing industry remained a lucrative and sustainable business even as there is a transition to a digital age for printed literature.
Shortage of paper causes increased prices in the packaging industry.
Mohammed said they have been experiencing serious problems in international supply chains from their suppliers in Brazil, the Far East and Europe over the past year.
“We have to raise our prices as the prices go up globally because of the shipping costs. There is another challenge and that is the availability of raw materials because there is very little paper to use in the industry worldwide.”
He added that although diversifying into packaging presented a growth opportunity for the company, it also presented a challenge in fulfilling orders.
“Shipping prices have skyrocketed and now it is actually costing us more to ship paper than the cost of the paper itself. This is a serious development, and it represents a doubling of the cost of our raw materials, and this is something where we would have no choice but to pass it on to our customers.
“There is an even bigger problem with the lack of capacity too for the paper mills to supply the requirements of their customers. Because of the supply-demand challenge companies in Brazil, the Far East and Europe are facilitating production for their domestic markets first and they are not facilitating export.”
To combat this challenge, Mohammed said EPCL has been engaged in expanding their suppliers and working with new companies to meet their demands.
“We are trying to find internationally any mill or any source of paper that has availability and is willing to export and we have been able to find some. There is a potential out of New Zealand, so it's an opportunity for the mill to get additional work and for us to get our raw materials,” he said.
Mohammed said the company continued to remain eco-friendly, since all its raw materials are certified renewable and adheres to a strict recycling policy.