Caribbean entrepreneurs get expert help on growing their agribusinesses

Monday, 09 May 2016
AgriSME workshop participants get a crash course in innovative packaging and labelling (Photo APP)

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago, March 24th 2016:  Agribusiness Entrepreneurs from around the Caribbean are heading back home from a three-day workshop armed and excited about growing their businesses.

“It was an awesome, awesome experience”, said Chavara Roker, a workshop participant from the Bahamas. “It is going to help me move my business forward; moving my product that I sell from the farm to the table.”


Thirty-nine agribusiness owners representing 15 Caribbean countries took part in the Product Development, Marketing, Food Safety and GMP for SMEs Workshop in Port-of-Spain in Trinidad & Tobago last week. The workshop was put on by the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) as part of the European Union’s (EU) Intra-ACP Agricultural Policy Programme (APP) with a focus on the Caribbean and the Pacific Regions, funded by the 10th European Development Fund (EDF). 

“The EU’s interest is long term, knowing that trade and specialization will contribute to higher living standards in both regions,” said Ulrich Thiessen, program manager for the Delegation of the European Union to Trinidad & Tobago in his opening remarks.  This workshop is just one part of one project that falls under the action of the 10th EDF. The goals of the action are to promote the development of small holders in agriculture through integration into local, national, regional and global markets.

Despite vast nature of the action however, the workshop itself was designed to equip small, up and coming Caribbean entrepreneurs to prepare them to take their uniquely Caribbean products to wider markets. Sessions addressed important issues such as marketing, labelling and food safety, as well as fostering networking amongst Caribbean business owners and food industry professionals.

Over the three days, participants were able to hear from experts and get advice about their particular products. They viewed samples of innovative packaging and attractive labelling and together, experts and participants toured a leading Caribbean supermarket chain to see first-hand what  products look like that are getting to store shelves and ultimately to the consumer.

Women and Youth AgriSME workshop participants getting feedback from labelling expert (Photo APP)

Robert Reid is the Technical Leader on the IICA-led Component of the project which focuses on linking entrepreneurs to markets. He said that participants and experts alike were pleased with the workshop and opportunities that it provided. “The experts found it extremely enjoyable to share their knowledge”, he said. “After the one-on-one consultations, we know that they will be in touch and have offered to provide future guidance.”

Shivangi Mahabali is a bee keeper from Suriname, producing and marketing natural honey. She was selected to attend the workshop, which had a specific focus on youth and woman business owners, and was pleased with what she learned.

“It gave me a lot of insight on how to market my product, how to package my product and to develop a good brand”, she said. “To become a very good entrepreneur from the Caribbean that meets international standards so that nobody in the world will refuse my product.”

Ms. Mahabali was also excited about meeting other beekeepers. She didn’t know anyone in the industry in her own country but met several beekeepers from around the Caribbean while at the conference. 

“It is always good to see how people do things differently and have different insights for the same business,” she said. “I can use that and get advice. A network is always important.  You can look at the strategies and learn from each other so that we become one Caribbean.”

Khristy Beharry of the Trinidad & Tobago Goat and Sheep Society is looking forward to passing food safety information that she has learned along to local farmers so that their products can “stand up to international markets”, she said. She also feels that with new direction on labelling and marketing, farmers will be able to “demand a higher price for their products.”

Robert Reid of IICA says that innovative packaging and labelling has become key to successfully marketing products in the Caribbean and around the world. “It is now an art, not just a science,” he says, “and workshop participants need to understand the dynamism of competition in supermarket chains which have become the most significant outlets for retail products in the Caribbean.”

The objective of the overall Agricultural Policy Programme in the Caribbean is to increase the capability of smallholder agriculture and agribusinesses in the region, with the end goal of tackling poverty. One way to do that is by limiting the need for expensive, imported food in the Caribbean. This can be done by increasing the availability of quality, homegrown, safe and affordable products as well as making Caribbean products ready for wider markets by meeting international standards for food safety and increased expectations for packaging and labelling.

“The Caribbean has some amazing products to offer”, says Gregg Rawlins, the Representative in Trinidad & Tobago and Co-ordinator, Regional Integration Caribbean Region, IICA. “This workshop isn’t going to be the complete solution to our challenges but it is one step in the process of achieving our goals.”


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The Intra-ACP APP is funded under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF)