Belizean products vastly excluded

The Commercial Free Zone at Santa Elena, Corozal, does robust trade with Mexican shoppers, and although the trading should have opened new doors for Belizean producers, the reality is that the vast majority of sales in that zone are from the trading of items not made in Belize.

Apart from pepper sauce, beer and water, there is not much else under the “Made in Belize” banner that shoppers get there. The number one item that sells there, across over 300 shops, is clothing – and Belize does not make any for that market.

The March 2010 Belizean Studies publication, A Journal of Social Research and Thought, highlights this phenomenon in an article titled, “The Availability & Desirability of Belizean-Made Products in the Corozal Commercial Free Zone.”

The exploratory study was conducted by a team of Galen University grad students: Desire E.Casey, general manager of Handels Bank & Trust Co. Ltd.; Emrece Smith, Social Security Board’s administrative assistant; Rachel M. Rancharan, student; and Gaspar Navarro, Senior Accounts Manager at Grace Kennedy Belize Ltd.; along with Michael J. Pisani, visiting professor at Galen and associate professor at Central Michigan University, USA.

Their research concluded three things: (1) there are not many Belizean-made products being sold in the Corozal Commercial Free Trade Zone; (2) the majority of retailers located in the Zone sell clothing; and (3) some Belizean businesses chose not to distribute or sell their products in the Zone – this for fear of leakages back into the local markets at prices that would undermine regular sales on account of black-market trading.

According to the team, “Belize does not manufacture much clothing at competitive prices; therefore the majority of CFZ retailers chose not to sell Belizean products.”

In light of their findings, Casey et al recommend that “the management of the CFZ place more emphasis upon attracting Belizean businesses to the CFZ.”

They advise publicity campaigns as one strategy.

“To help boost the Belizean economy, we also recommend that the CFZ management invest in marketing Belizean-made products to distributors operating within the CFZ. CFZ should provide information to distributors operating within the CFZ concerning how to access Belizean-made products,” the team expresses.

They also suggest that the management of the CFZ should take a more active role in forming a link between Belizean producers and businesses operating inside the Zone, and they also recommend further research to determine the demand for specific products.

“We feel it is important to attract Belizean businesses to the CFZ; it will not only benefit the businesses but the overall economy of Belize,” they comment.