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EC$231 million in goods imported from T&T in 2009

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The call by some Vincentians and other Caribbean nationals to boycott products made in Trinidad and Tobago is impractical and likely to fail.{{more}}

In the wake of Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Kamla Persuad Bissessar’s recent comments about assistance to neighbouring islands ravaged by Hurricane Tomas, some Caribbean nationals have joined in an online campaign to boycott products made in Trinidad and Tobago.

The campaign, which was promoted initially through a Blackberry message, and later broadcast on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, said:

“Join me and many of my friends in the “BUY NOTHING MADE IN TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO” campaign. This is a result of the TNT PM’s open statement to the media saying she will not give any assistance to Caricom countries affected by Hurricane Tomas unless it is to the benefit of Trinidad. I wonder if she is aware of the amount of products we purchase daily that is made in Trinidad. PLEASE JOIN AND PASS IT ON.”

Searchlight obtained statistics on the imports of St. Vincent and the Grenadines from Trinidad and Tobago to assess the practically of the campaign. According to the Statistical Office, St. Vincent and the Grenadines imports from our Caricom neighbour have been increasing yearly. In 2007 the value of imported goods was $208 million. This increased to $219 million in 2008 and $231 million in 2009.

Our exports to Trinidad and Tobago were a mere $17 million, $19 million, and $25 million for 2007, 2008, 2009 respectively.

Online supporters of the campaign have vowed not to buy any products manufactured in Trinidad, some stating that they will leave the products on the shelves to spoil; one St. Lucian supporter stated: “Seriously, that was simply heartless and plain selfish!!! We need to show her what can happen when serious, God-fearing and caring people unite. I think we (Saint Lucia) import a lot of snacks from T&T. I will try my best to avoid buying these things. Yes, my taste buds will miss them, but on the bright side I’ll loose a few inches. Come on, guys, and join me!!”

However, imports from Trinidad and Tobago to this country go way beyond snacks.

In 2009, St. Vincent and the Grenadines imported over $125 million in petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals from our oil rich neighbour. Other commodities imported in large quantities include: $3.2 million worth of furniture, furniture parts and bedding; $6.5 million in iron and steel bars, rods and angles; $13.9 million in lime, cement and frabricated construction materials; $8 million in cereal preparations and preparations of flour or starch of fruits and vegetables; $6.1 million in paper and paperboard; $3 million in soap and other cleansers.

A variety of meat products, dairy products such as cheese, fruit preserves, alcoholic beverages, perfumes and toiletries, machines and machine parts including office machinery, rubber tyres, fuel wood, wood charcoal and many other products are also on the list.

Social Commentator Marlon Stevenson, giving his views on the issue, told Searchlight that the boycott idea ‘’doesn’t really make sense”, adding that if persons were to remove from the shelves of supermarkets all products belonging to Trinidad and Tobago, about 60 per cent of the items would be removed.

“I don’t see this… over the sake of a couple of words, as insensitive as the words are, I don’t see persons sticking to it…(boycott). If they stick to it, it might be good for St. Vincent to concentrate on using more local stuff … even at this point in time, the agriculture is under threat, but I don’t really see the boycott taking hold,” he said.

Stevenson added that as an economy, we will have to depend on Trinidad, whose products are cheaper than those of other countries.

Stevenson opined that Persaud-Bissessar’s statements were insensitive and were as a result of her political immaturity.