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Export Competitiveness Forum Held in Belize City

The first Export Competitive Forum since the onset of the pandemic saw large and small exporters converge in Belize City.� A host of topics were presented, including keys to remain competitive regionally and globally. Belize's national competitive performance was reviewed and a presentation was done on the export competitiveness roadmap that is in its final stages. The forum emphasized the critical role of the public and private sector collaboration in maintaining export competitiveness. News Five's Paul Lopez reports.

Paul Lopez, Reporting

Increasing business competiveness is essential to growing Belize's export market. Ninety percent of Belize's exports consist of livestock and food. To become more competitive the local export market must become more diverse and innovative. The Commonwealth Secretariat has been providing technical assistance in this area to Belize.

Azuka Ogundejia, Commonwealth Secretariat.

"From the surveys we have done. We have sent hat is something right. I do believe that an average Belizean company wants to do better. But again to be innovative also requires some finance. People think I would like to do that but I don't have the money so I just need to stay where I am. But innovation is critical and I believe it is also the next level to moving forward for any company and all. I mean if you listen to Nikkita, they talked about it in his presentation, they had to innovate. They were only doing citrus, but they realize we can't sit here. What can we do better? How else can we present? It might be the same product, but how can we present it in a different way?"

As an example of innovation, Nikkita Usher at Citrus Products of Belize Limited shared how a sharp decline in citrus production led to innovation in their company.

Nikkita Usher, Citrus Products of Belize Ltd.

"We hear about the pandemic in 2019, 2020, but the citrus industry faced a pandemic long before 2019. The citrus industry faced the pandemic called a reduction in production. A reduction in production caused substantial effect on a plant that was built or designed to ten million boxes of fruits. Today, we are at two million boxes caused by a disease. That is a pandemic worst than COVID for us. So, we must now find way to diversify even more. Hence the reason we have taken one of those beautiful plants that have a number of stainless steel equipment and converted it into a tropical producing plant. So today we are now pushing soursop as a product, pineapple as a product and coconut is to come later this year."

But apart from diversification, CARICOM member states are faced with a number of trade barriers that stagnates growth across the region.

Dr. Osmond Martinez, C.E.O.,� Ministry of Economic Development

"The challenges to trade among the Caribbean is unacceptable. There are other factors as well. One of them is the logistics to trade within the Caribbean. So, it is almost impossible to trade from Belize directly ot the Caribbean. It has to go through Miami and then Miami to the Caribbean. That is one problem. Then two, there is also a limitation in terms of communication by air. Even if you want to be in two different countries in the Caribbean, say for example you want to go to Turks and Cacaos you will have to go Belize to Miami, Miami to Turks and Cacaos. But, if you want to spend the following week in Barbados, you will have to go Turks and Cacaos to Miami and then from Miami to Barbados. So, even among the Caribbean countries we can see there are limitations in terms of logistics."

Improving trade networks within the region is a critical component to export competitiveness within the region, says C.E.O. Martinez. Lisa Callender, a consultant for the Commonwealth secretariat and Beltraide, is working closely with Belizean exporters to develop a roadmap for export competitiveness.

Lisa Callender, Consultant

"I am in Jamaica and there is the same conversation going on in Jamaica. The reality is that most companies are relatively small compared to the global market. Our company size even the larger companies are quite small in terms of global competition. So the CARICOM single market and economy is very critical to getting companies to have a space where they can grow. Most markets are fairly small and fragmented because the purchasing power of a lot of the population is not great. So, the CARICOM Single Market and Economy needs to be on the agenda for everyone. It is a question of rationalizing and harmonizing policy space. And even though we are similar, we come from different histories and back grounds. So that harmonization has to be operational zed very quickly and it is already been too long. We are also in Jamaica quite frustrated about it."

A first draft of the export competitiveness road map was reviewed at today's forum. From today a concrete action plan will be put forward. Reporting for News Five I am Paul Lopez.

Channel 5

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