Commentary: Made in where? Say what! (Hear hear)

 

Commentary: Made in where? Say what!

Published on Friday, July 13, 2007

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By Clarence E Pilgrim

I had an interesting experience one day, in a particular Caribbean island, when I attempted to purchase a cold drink. I was offered a beverage where the label on the drink was written in a language other than English, and the other details were not easily decipherable. It was an unsuccessful challenge to find the date of expiry on the product. Needless to say, the adventure of this effort encouraged me to find an alternative source to quench my thirst.

Clarence E Pilgrim

This simple attempted business transaction is not singular in nature, but represents a wider problem that the Caribbean Community will have to confront aggressively and overcome.

I am referring to what I like to call "mass product dumping" . My personal definition for this term is the targeted manufacturing of products devoid of specific standards, to supply a willing market eager for a "cost savings." The unfortunate catch is that the willing purchasers are blinded by the smokescreen of a low cost with a superficially high satisfaction yield, while not mindful of the potential health and environmental safety issues which are a part of the production cycle of the particular product.

Consumer education is essential to the resistance to this illusion of a deal. This form of "pirating" products from other countries is against practical consumer safety standards. Clearly there is a strong need for a coordinated, consistent and regulatory-compliant oversight of this sector.

Too often, many food products arrive in well packaged and colourful containers (some don’t even bother with this visual attraction), but have not been tested for the quality of what is being offered in terms of actual palatability, and more importantly the guarantee of safety standards with regard to the process of preparation.

With a potentially troubling hurricane season facing the Caribbean, food security is certainly a major priority, as the need for the procurement and storage of emergency rations is an essential part of disaster management. But this should not be the only factor to prompt a call for the imposition of acceptable standards.

The reality is the words often spoken, " You are what you eat" is very true. An entire society’s productivity can be undermined by the consumption of food materials that may affect the metabolic processes of the human body, as well as the possibility of altering or undermining other abilities and functions.

Only through a deliberate strategy and an active agenda can we hope to fully harness the raw human resource potential of the Caribbean lands, with the aim of promoting positive attitudinal change in the area of how we see ourselves in the chain of consumption and needs linkages.

Perhaps with a strong work ethic of responsibility and quality, there would be a better understanding of how informed decisions can be the stimulation for not only producing goods made with a Caribbean focus, but to create an appreciation for things that are indeed made in the Caribbean. But of course, our Caribbean producers must have accountability and transparency in the production process to ensure quality control.

A revitalised mood of seeking and creating entrepreneurial opportunities through initiative and creativity should be the forward thrust for a new Caribbean.

Products with the illusion of satisfaction made in whichever country should be seen and avoided, particularly if it has a vague label with absolutely no supporting evidence that it has a healthy track record.

As we focus on Caribbean products, I would like to say to all consumers that we should follow a quote, which I believe is applicable, from the late General Douglas MacArthur who said, "We are not retreating – we are advancing in another direction."

Clarence E Pilgrim, is an enviromentalist, advocate for human rights, educator, a senior officer in the Antigua & Barbuda Civil service and volunteer for various non-profit organisations. His pen and speeches are consistent platforms for Caribbean Integration, social policy issues, enviornmental protection, development of alternative energy and the careful management of our natural resources.

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