Taiwan mission hosts Trade Fair
October 2, 2009
Taiwan mission hosts Trade Fair

ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES’ food import bill now stands at a whopping $200 million.

And Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, who made the disclosure on Monday at the annual Taiwanese Trade Fair at the Methodist Church Hall, believes it is about time Vincentians review their tastes.{{more}}

Gonsalves drew attention to the food bill to highlight the economic possibilities for Taiwanese businesses that are interested in trading with St.Vincent and the Grenadines.

According to the prime minister, St.Vincent and the Grenadines’ import food bill for 2008 stood at $198.3 million. He said meat and meat preparations cost the country $42.4 m; cereal and cereal preparation $70.9 million; and fruits and vegetables $17.3 million.

“We seem to have a mindset to go for a lot of things which are foreign. It’s part of the hangover from colonialism. It seems that the more we get independent, the more we eat a lot of foreign stuff,” Gonsalves remarked.

The prime minister used the opportunity to welcome a trade delegation to St.Vincent and the Grenadines led by the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA).

The delegation representing seven of Taiwan’s leading companies began their trade mission with a two-day stop in Trinidad and Tobago on September 24 and 25.

The Trinidad visit was followed by the trade fair in Kingstown on September 28 to 29, when delegates exhibited their products, before moving on to the Gaiety in St.Lucia today, where they will end the programme on October 4, 2009.

Gonsalves praised the partnership St.Vincent has shared with Taiwan since 1981. He said this relationship has benefitted Vincentians significantly in areas of investment, trade, sports, infrastructural development, agriculture, poverty reduction, human resource development, education, youth empowerment, and information and communications technology.

He added that St.Vincent and the Grenadines has to do further work to increase food productivity and ensure food security. He stressed that the country also needs to open new markets and enhance existing ones, as well as improve the quality of locally produced food. He added there is also a need to increase income generation and competitiveness.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace said he believes the time has come to review the relationship St. Vincent shares with Taiwan, particularly in areas pertaining to its economic needs.

“I think we have to spend more time nowadays seeing to what extent we can advance the role of the missions that are based here in terms of development not only in agriculture, but beyond agriculture, and including export promotions,” said Eustace.

Angus Steele, President of the St.Vincent and the Grenadines Chamber of Industry and Commerce, encouraged the local business community to use the opportunity to strengthen ties with the representatives of the Taiwanese companies.

Steele added that the trade fair provided an effective platform for cooperation between the two countries.

He encouraged Government to help foster a healthy business relation between the two countries. For example, he said, whenever a mission from St. Vincent is visiting Taiwan, business persons should be invited as part of the delegation.

Meanwhile, Minister of Telecommunications Dr. Jerrol Thompson said the government was prepared to work with the private sector and have several programmes geared at private sector development, including lowering the tax burden, improving efficiency and promoting entrepreneurship.

Taiwan’s Ambassador to St.Vincent and the Grenadines, Leo Lee, spoke of his country’s economic decline this year and its impact on business.

The companies represented at the trade fair were: Billy King Co. Ltd, Camel King Co. Ltd, DMT Asia Co. Ltd, Great Taiwan Material Handling Co, Ihlin Co, Linkage Co. Ltd, and LUH Dah Brake Corporation.