Interview: New opportunities for inter-regional trade through ICTs

Enricka Julien

caribbean trade - shipping containter

CARICOM nations are always facing difficulties dealing with border disputes, which of course makes it hard for these developing countries to trade amongst themselves. Added to this are ground level problems that are left to be solved by high level authority such as poor road infrastructure high post-harvest to transport losses.

During a seminar on Linkages between Trade and Transportation within CARICOM at 14th Caribbean Week of Agriculture 2016, Mr Jai Rampersad, General Manager of Bunny Imports and Exports Limited (BIEL) provided recommendations for addressing supplier issues and the promotion of trade within the region.

After hearing him speak I was curious to learn more about the potential opportunities, BIEL business model could have on trade and transport in CARICOM, so I decided to interview with Mr. Rampersad. In this interview, he offered tips for success to create your own import and export model.

Interview begins:

Enricka: Can you provide us with some background information about Bunny Imports and Exports Limited?

Jai: Bunny Imports and Exports Limited has been around for ten years. It started off as a small family business which has grown tremendously over the past few years.

It has grown to have a container load of 400 to 500 per year and last year we had an estimated 40 percent market share of the fresh produce imported products in Trinidad and Tobago.  It has grown drastically since then with our new strategic plan to 65 percent.

In terms of local produce we started based on the strategic plan to take local produce.We took an estimate of 66 million dollars of local produce this year alone. We have enhanced our strategic plan to include the domestic food to agro-processing to retail to go all along the value chain to provide these new marketing opportunities.

Enricka: Can you tell us a little more about the business model you were discussing in the seminar on Linkages between Trade and Transportation within CARICOM?

Jai: Being around the industry for so many years for lecturing, for having this experience I really wanted to see this industry move forward, it’s been stagnant for the past 20 – 30 years and really and truly it needs to change.

As I said in the session it (the model) needs to be private driven, its needs to be market-based, not public driven and not production based.

So the model we came up with it was tested it based on Bunny’s enhanced strategic plan business model where we control all value chain activities and have dealings with the suppliers using Information and Communication Technology (ICT)- we can capitalize on this, evaluate it and put it in the other countries.

It’s also been working in the other countries such as Grenada as well. So by utilizing this model and putting it in the other countries, we can start to promote that inter-regional trade and with the ICT support we could see what type of production we have on the ground and be able to move it a lot better and it will enhance the quality.

Enricka: When you say ICT support what do you mean, can you provide me with a little more details?

Jai: ICT support in terms of a primary database system so let’s say in Trinidad and Tobago you have the database, so you know what farmers have on the ground, what they plan to put in the field and the existing market prices.

So you will know if you have an overstock of hot pepper while keeping in mind the market is generally at TT$250 a bag. (So putting new stock on the market) it will cause a drop to TT$50 a bag.

So to reduce that risk you know your offices in Barbados needs hot pepper, so you send it across there so that way the price does not fluctuate in Trinidad and Tobago. You will get more product sold and promote interregional trade.

Enricka: Is this information already available to Bunny Imports and Export Limited?

Jai: All this is still in the conceptualization stage. Bunny Imports is in the process and has the business model, and while the ICT support system has not been fully developed yet, we have been liaising with the farmers to know what they have on the ground.

It’s just to input in the system, but that has already been started. This concept of interregional trade, which I hammered it down in the session needs to be done, it has to be done and it is the only way the industry will really move forward.

Because no longer will you be looking for products in your own backyard but your products will now be coming from CARICOM as a whole, and it then can be the bread basket of the developed world, we can now be food secure, and we start to export to bring some foreign currency back.

Enricka: I’m sure you saw the social reporters sharing information about CWA with our online audiences do you think social media can also be used by companies to help promote the development of the region’s trade and transport industry?

Jai: It has to be done. You see the previous model before we changed the strategic plan was a business to business system, where we are large-scale wholesalers, so we deal directly with the customers.

But that changed now the dynamics have changed to inter-regional trade to local outlets to agro-processing. Certainly our promotional and marketing will be a lot different, so that’s why recently we brought on new staff to start doing a new website development we are in the plans of having a proper e-commerce system being done and we have the Facebook page.

Interview ends

The business model is straightforward, we need to be market driven instead of production given and the sector needs to take a private sector approach to doing business.

Sounds simple enough doesn’t it but we all know it’s not as easy to implement. However, we need to start, not later but now.

We can be the first of many nations to establish an inter-regional trade programme which could ensure that all our islands become food secure and improve the livelihood of our farming communities.


Copyright © 2016, CTA. Technical Centre for Rural and Agricultural Cooperation

CTA is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.