by Eulana Weekes
St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank- Mr. Timothy N. J Antoine said countries in the region need to “rethink strategies for importing supplies and distributing to consumers” and also “establish contingency plans for periods of crisis.”
Businesses and consumers in the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) continue to experience the effects of Global Supply Chain shocks and disruptions. The Coronavirus Pandemic, the six day block of the Suez Canal by container ship “Ever Given,” compounded by the Russia-Ukraine War has heightened the need for a more resilient and diverse Supply Chain in the region.
In an article published on Monday, May 16, Antoine wrote that businesses should examine their supply chain, pinpoint risks and vulnerabilities, consider producing their own goods and diversify their base.
Governor Antoine provided several ways in which businesses in the OECS can design its supply chain to be more resilient and diverse.
He said, “They must engage in a deep dive and holistic review of their supply chain. They must engage in ongoing risk management and demand analysis as well as build in enough operational flexibility to protect against future disruptions. Analysis of the supply chain will help identify where changes might be necessary and what action can be taken to mitigate disruptions. They must grasp the opportunity to form new partnerships, vertical integration and clusters for suppliers and stakeholders. They must make greater use of technology, including blockchain to the extent feasible, and innovation to build efficiency, resilience and adaptability in their supply chain; to have access to real-time information so as to reduce uncertainty and allow the parties to make informed decisions. Greater use must also be made of existing trade and information portals.”
The people of the Eastern Caribbean are heavily reliant on imported goods and with the growing issue of Global Supply Chain Shortages, there is much dialogue across the region on food security and reducing dependency on imports. According to Antoine, the Eastern Caribbean Central Union Trade data for 2020 show that US $2 billion in goods were imported to the region, mostly from China, Trinidad, and the USA; but in contrast, the ECCU exported 40 percent of goods to the Caribbean and 35 percent to the USA.
Antoine proposes that businesses and consumers “buy local,” which will in turn encourage more agricultural production and agro-processing; thus reducing the food import bill. In this regard, it is recommended that farmers be trained in modern agricultural practices such as hydroponics and vertical farming. He also proposed the removal of transportation challenges for trading in the region and the introduction of fast ferry linkages and a distribution trading company; thus boosting the agriculture trade within the region.
As it relates to the Construction or Manufacturing Industry, Antoine suggests that discarded or unwanted materials be recycled and used for other purposes or customers be encouraged to save and submit items; which can be used for the manufacturing of new products.
In the energy sector, Governor Antoine said countries of the region should increase the use and investment in renewable energy to reduce the dependency on the import of fossil fuels.