New local manufacturers Association
Curaçao Manufacturers Association (CMA) is the name of the new business association that was established in 2018. The local manufacturers decided to join forces to work on their common interests. The Board recently had its first official meeting with now former Minister Steven Martina of Economic Development and talked about several possibilities to promote local production. The Minister supported this initiative and has instructed his Ministry to look into specific steps that will create quick wins for the manufacturing sector.
After the government policy of market protection was abolished approximately 15 years ago, several manufacturing companies closed down, others moved their production site to markets where production is cheaper and are now importing their products in Curaçao, while others changed from production to import and wholesaling and in some cases even to retailing. Others changed their focus from local consumers and started to target the tourism market. The sector shrunk from one of the largest employment providers and supporters to the islands GDP to a forgotten group of companies.
Martina with his background in the production sector is aware of the enormous potential that these companies can bring to the table, with the right infrastructure and government support. He therefore welcomed the new business association and instructed the Ministry to work together with the CMA to develop an enabling industrial policy that will attract new opportunities. Curaçao’s manufacturers have to compete locally against imported CARICOM products but cannot enter the CARICOM with their products. The CMA Board explained that the main challenges that the manufacturers encounter in the development of their businesses is the uncontrolled import of competing products from countries with lower production costs.
These products do not meet any barriers for importation to Curaçao, while the local manufacturers cannot export their products to these markets due to the high tariffs in those markets. The possibility to be able to compete fairly in CARICOM is therefore high on the agenda.
The companies propose a policy based on the reciprocity principle. This will give the local manufacturers a more level playing field for fair competition.
The Minister explained that the unequal playing field has his attention and that he is determined to take up this challenge and address it during trade negotiations with the Cariforum countries among others. At the same time, he will work together with the manufacturers to craft a supporting industrial policy to energize this sector and encourage innovation, sustainable manufacturing and exports of local products and services. One of the first activities is the organization of an expo of local products during the coming National Export Awareness Week in May. This will be dedicated to the local manufacturers.
Current needs of local manufacturers
During meetings and survey among the local manufacturers, they have indicated the main issues currently confronting local production and what they expect from their business representing association.
• To help create a level playing field, especially on the local market but also in the export markets;
• The importance of a well-functioning legal framework;
• The need for a joint promotion campaign;
• The importance of export facilitating instruments and regulations, such as trade agreements, lower logistic costs and fiscal incentives.
Notwithstanding the current situation, the local manufacturers look back at some interesting highlights during the last years. Curaçao Laboratories, producer of the famous Curaçao Blue Liqueur and Glacial Splash has continued investing in different activities to target the tourism market. Curaçao Ecocity Project, producer of the Curaloe line of product added four different health drink supplements to its product line. Serbes Kòrsou took over Landhuis Granbeeuw and opened a beerhouse to be able to access the local market directly with their Montana Beer brand.
Samira Matrassen Fabriek has expanded their production with their line of tailor made upholstery items. The Coffee Factory opened a new Café Barista Foodcourt at the departure hall of the airport and took over the two local Delifrance Café’s. Kortijn Ijs has invested in a continuous training program for its personnel and Curaçao Aluminum Products has added new products to its line.
Curaçao Mining and Betonwarenfabriek Brievengat also added new products, but mostly improved its service to customers to become more of a solution partner for them. And there are more examples of positive developments among this group. As the need to join forces became more apparent, the manufacturers urged by the Managing Director of the Antilliaanse Verffabriek Horace Hinds, decided to establish the CMA to come up for their common interests. The top of the MEO who was also present during the meeting with the CMA Board reacted very positively and have already started to work on the different tasks. The CMA Board members look back to a very fruitful meeting with the Ministry and have high expectations for the cooperation with MEO.