The state of manufacturing in Dominica has been described as an industry that is “barely existent”.
The assessment’s coming from the revamped Dominica Manufacturers’ Association which is now celebrating its first anniversary.
Spokesman Severin McKenzie told Dominica News Online that Dominican manufacturing was at the moment “like a little baby, just born”.
According to the Association’s Public Relations Officer, manufacturing is clearly not on the front burner today.
McKenzie contends that neither government nor private sector are giving the sector priority at the moment.
“You find that quite a number of manufacturers are doing their little thing here and there,” the association spokesman said.
His association wants to highlight “the importance that manufacturing has to the economy”.
The association at its annual general meeting on Wednesday shone the spotlight on three pioneering manufacturing firms – PH Williams and Company, Belfast Estates and Dominica Coconut Products, and Bello Products.
Leading officials of those companies were honored.
McKenzie says focusing on those who have achieved can help encourage budding manufacturers to help move the sector forward.
Seventy-two small, medium and “relatively large” manufacturing companies are listed on the association’s membership roll.
However McKenzie laments that “you hardly hear anything about them – in fact Dominicans do not even know what they produce”.
Advertising and promotional costs are being blamed for that state of affairs.
McKenzie who is himself a manufacturer of toilet paper through his Nature Island Paper Products company, says local manufacturers face huge hurdles.
“There are very few incentives for manufacturing that can give them the competitive edge over the imported products,” he told DNO.
The Dominica Manufacturers Association continues to make a case for government to “transfer the VAT (15 per cent Value Added Tax) that we pay at the port when our raw materials and packaging materials come in, transfer it to when we sell”.
According to the businessman government has put in place fiscal incentives that provide for the waiving of import duty.
However he says the manufacturers have to cough up the necessary duty funds “if you are bringing the stuff from CARICOM (member states) – and most of our raw materials have to come from CARICOM anyway”.
He explained that the small volume being purchased makes it uneconomical to try to access raw material from outside of the region which the incentives cater for.
Several manufacturing companies have folded here over the past few years, including Candle Industries, Paul’s Pasta, Blows (Herbal Tea), Paul’s Plastic and Benja Shoe.
McKenzie says one of the problems faced is because penetrating the local market is an uphill struggle.
According to the businessman, many local outlets won’t sell locally manufactured products.
He wants to find out from the DAIC (Dominica Association of Industry and Commerce) “ and some of those businesses why they have so much difficulty in putting local products side by side with what they are importing”.
“There are no systems in place to give you any kind of priority or advantage over what is imported,” McKenzie told DNO.