It’s no surprise when we say that Trinidad & Tobago’s economy is heavily dependent on oil & gas. Therefore, it should also come as no surprise that we have been experiencing adverse effects of a recession as a result of falling oil prices. The balance of trade in 2008 in comparison to 2017 shows that our trade balance is in a deficit once again. The government has introduced certain measures in this year’s budget to combat this deficit to ensure we continue developing this nation.Some may agree or disagree with the government’s plan but what is certain is that prices for oil & natural gas prices may not increase significantly anytime soon. So the question then is, what do we do?
Over the last decade, many economists have identified diversification as the only solution for our economic dependency on energy and say we should focus more on manufacturing as we did in the 1980s, in particular the largest non-energy manufacturing sector, the food and beverage industry. This sector plays a critical role in not only diversifying our reliance on oil but also reducingT&T’s food import bill and generating crucial foreign exchange.Our local beverage industry produces beer, rum, soft drinks, exotic fruit juices, flavored and bottled water among other things.
This sector is a vibrant area of commerce in T&T. The industry generates significant employment and creates business for other industries, for example, printing, packaging, training, research and development, to name a few. This sector will continue to grow if food and beverage companies focus on exploring new markets regionally and internationally. This industry has not even come close to reaching its full potential and there is so much room for increasing output and introducing new products. The formula for export is already tried and tested by market leaders that have already expanded their production, created new products and established local brands in new markets.
Trinidad & Tobago is considered one of the most educated countries in the world with a literacy rate exceeding 98% and therefore we cannot sit back and wait for something to happen. It’s up to companies to be creative and ensure that their businesses change with the times and find new ways to operate efficiently, minimize cost and diversify their portfolios.
Trinidad & Tobago holds a lot of opportunities in niche products that are unique to the Caribbean and it’s time we focus our attention on developing new products as well as promote established brands outside the country.
Where does T&T export beverages to?
You can find a Trinbagonian almost anywhere in the world. The same can be said about our brands.Based on “The Observatory of Economic Complexity” export data for Trinidad & Tobago in2015, let’s have a look at some places that we export our beverages in order of highest dollar value and % of volume shipped. (i.e. beer, hard liquor, juice, bottled water and flavoured water).
Source: TTMA, The Oxford Business Group, Economy Watch & OEC