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Businesses are uniting to access international markets

Today, Beltraide hosted a National Cluster Workshop through its technical unit, Export Belize. The National Cluster Workshop was funded by the Compete Caribbean Project. The workshop provided a framework for facilitating business clusters in Belize. Love News spoke with the Manager of Export Belize, Shahera McKoy.

Shahera McKoy, Manager of Export Belize

“Beltraide applied to Compete Caribbean to access capacity building for cluster facilitation. What cluster is, is that when you have private sector firms coming together, doing something together for mutual benefit so it could be anywhere from jointly getting certifications to access export markets, it could be that they come together to share the cost, maybe they want to import some raw material and they can come together and share the cost, there are costs associated with exporting that you wouldn’t incur if you sold locally and that is one of the reasons that we are looking at supporting clusters. One of the good examples that we have is the Belize Shrimp Growers Association, they were able to get some funding to do a cluster and what happened they came together as a group to get certification because some of the times the cost relates to having certification to enter the market. The national workshop here has business support organizations both from the public sector and the private sector and the idea is to start partnerships where we are coming together to support the private sector to show them the benefit of cluster and one of the benefit is actually that; they can share the cost of getting into an export market. They can share information with each other, they can navigate the export market together for example one of  things we view is that, it’s on a smaller basis but when we support certain companies at trade shows we encourage and they are encouragedthey r also not only promote the companies that they represent, but promote other Belizean companies and we’ve seen that happen so it’s this kind of thing that we want to see from our producers, we want them to be able to work together because then it becomes easier to navigate the process to get in the markets.”

Love News also spoke with Russel Franklin, the Financial Coordinator at Compete Caribbean Project, which is a multi-donor trust fund. The donors include UK Aid, Caribbean Development Bank, and Inter-American Development Bank. The project was established to work with businesses to assist them in becoming more economically viable. Franklin says that Compete Caribbean Project will soon come to an end.

Russel Franklin, the Financial Coordinator at Compete Caribbean Project

“In this second phase we don’t believe Compete Caribbean will be continuing in perpetuity as a project. We are trying to pass on our knowledge to business support organizations such as Beltraide so that sustainability is built into our program with respect to clustering initiatives. We are trying to develop sustainability in our program so the concepts of clustering  has been around for a while and what we did on the first phase in the Compete Caribbean is to execute these projects for example you heard about the Belize  Shrimp Growers Association and together those seven companies  started initially, came together to implement  the aquaculture standard and this allowed them to access the market of France, Spain and other European countries with shrimp from Belize, basically a niche market that they had didn’t have access to before. It was very successful with respect to Belize in this instance and the other countries we did clustering in Tourism for example in Grenada where we have for example in we helped Grenada develop the Pure Grenada brand. These programs were executed directly by the Facilities coordinating unit at Compete Caribbean. We believe this might be the last Compete Caribbean program which starts from 2017 to 2021 and therefore we want to pass on these methodologies that we have learned to institutions such as Beltraide so that when Compete dries up our ends, they will be able to execute the programs that we have developed in the future. So our hope is to engender sustainability and also to give some encouragement to other associations outside of shrimp such as the Cocoa Association that we have here. Couple Tourism associations that we have here as well; Poultry might be ready so that they would be encouraged to see themselves not as an individual firm, but to come together for the greater good.”

Compete Caribbean works with businesses in thirteen countries including Belize in Central America and Suriname in South America.