Caribbean and Pacific participants visit a food-processing business in Barbados. (Photo: Kenroy Ambris/CTA)

By Andre Huie

Caribbean agri-businesses must learn from their Pacific counterpart and develop trust among fellow entrepreneurs to take the industry forward.

That was the sentiment expressed by successful Jamaica food company entrepreneur Winston Stona of Busha Browne’s Fine Jamaican Produce, at the 2nd Caribbean Agri-business Forum in Barbados last week.

Stona said Caribbean food business stakeholders can learn a lot from their Pacific counterparts, adding that he was impressed with their willingness to trust each other and work together in the interest of advancing the agro-food industry. “There is something they have that we need badly that we need to operate in this country — trust. We’re not very good at that in the Caribbean,” Stona said.

He noted that Caribbean agri-food entrepreneurs are not willing to work in clusters, fearing their ideas would be stolen by their competitors, while not realising that the Caribbean market is very small compared to the rest of the world.

“If we share the work together we would do so much better. What they (Pacific) got over us with that; they work very closely together,” Stona said.

Another highlight for Stona at the agri-business forum is the need for proper branding by Caribbean agri-business entities.

He mentioned to a presentation by fishermen from the Pacific that immediately brand their catch as soon as it is landed in the boat. He is of the view that Caribbean entities can learn from this exercise. “If you look at most of our labels in the supermarkets; you know Auntie Joe and I know Auntie Joe, but who is that person when it gets on the market outside? … You got to spend time on your brand,” Stona said.

He said it is hard to convince the Caribbean agri-food entrepreneur to take this advice and noted that even though these suggestions may appear as “little things” in the industry, it is very important to achieve success.

Meanwhile, Stona had high praises for the Caribbean Agri-business Forum, which he said provided much insight into the sector, especially the lessons learned from experiences in the Pacific.

He considered it a positive development to have both the Pacific and the Caribbean stakeholders at the same forum to share ideas and experiences that can be beneficial to both regions. “I think it’s one of the best forums I have been to. I have been to quite a lot of forums with this [subject], mainly through Carib Export. But this is an excellent programme because the twinning of the two branches is excellent. We’re learning from each other,” he said.

“The world is getting smaller. There are no boundaries but we can learn from each other and I think what is happening is that it is interesting to see what they are doing, some of which we can use, and they have found some of what we are doing, quite exciting,” he added.

The 2nd Caribbean Agri-business Forum was organised by the Technical Center for Agriculture and Rural Development, Inter-American Institute of Cooperation on Agriculture, the Caribbean Agri-Business Association and the Minister of Agriculture and Tourism of Barbados.

It was held from Nov. 5-6 under the theme “Strengthening the Agri-food Sector and Expanding Markets”.