Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 29th 2015 Contents Dissecting the US currency problem in T&T,
he said there was a change in the system which,
"led to a lot of leakage" of US dollars out of
T&T. And, secondly, T&T now has less US
dollars due to the fall in oil revenues.
He remained guarded on whether a return
to the old system of allocating forex would
assist in easing the supply of US currency.
"Going back to the old system (of allocating
forex), it s not going to create dollars. It will
get slightly better for a short while. There are
very difficult choices ahead. Either you regulate
how people can access US dollars which would
end up in corruption or, devalue."
Devaluing the dollar may "bring things back
reality in T&T in the sense of what you are
getting here for your dollar in terms of pro-
Agostini shared the same suggestion of for-
mer president of the Supermarkets Association
Vernon Persad that the food sector should be
given the priority over others sectors when it
comes to allocating foreign currency.
At times it can be embarrassing for him not
being able to settle bills due to the unavailability
"What s going to happen---or maybe hap-
pening already---is a black market developing.
There will be financial institutions here where
you can buy US dollars at $6.70.
Describing the problem of US currency
availability as frustrating, Agostini said "we
deal in a lot in commodities. We try to take
advantage of the pricing, as a true manufacturer
we follow prices of the raw materials everyday.
"Sometimes there are opportunities (to get
a lower price) but if you have no credit you
can t take advantage of it."
Stating that the inconsistent supply of US
currency has impacted T&T s international
image, he said: "Your shipment comes in on
the port so you start paying port rent, but if
you can t pay for the shipment, they won t
release it. It has become harder to do busi-
Focusing on food prices, he suggested that
consumers should buy in bulk or wholesale
to get a lower price. He said buying in bulk
allows the consumer to obtain a lower price.
Substantiating his point about bulk buying,
he referred to Business Guardian s price list,
saying 500ml coconut oil retails at $19.99 but
if the consumer were to purchase a larger
quantity they would have savings.
Other than coconut oil, the company is a
manufacturer of fats such as margarine and
soap and is an employer of more than 150
CGA has been around for more than seven
decades. Its products are also in Puerto Rico
and in parts of the United States and Canada.
A member of the T&T Manufacturers Asso-
ciation, CGA produces margarine in the 20
kilo boxes which is sold to bakeries and fast-
The company is considered the largest pro-
ducer of these types of product.
While SMEs and other businesses can pur-
chase in bulk, not every consumer can afford
to buy in bulk which can cost between $2,500
and $3,000 for groceries, depending on the
size of the family and the items purchased.
There are consumers, Agostini said, who
have a daily budget and cannot afford a month-
ly budget to buy food and these are the type
of families who have to cope with the prices
at the various retail outlets. Referring to
demand for coconut oil, he said the product
is high in demand. The market in T&T has
increased by 500 per cent within the last three
years. Despite this, there are always the health
reports in media which can interfere with
He does not believe the taste patterns of
the people have completely gone in the direc-
tion of international foods, rather there is a
return to consuming local foods.
"We like to listen to everything the Amer-
icans say. For awhile coconut oil was seen as
bad oil because of campaigns by the American
Soyabean Association. That s over now.
Coconut oil is something which is very much
Workforce and productivity
Referring to his external environment, he
said productivity is getting "worse and worse,"
despite some negotiations settling at 14 per
"We (T&T) don t have a shortage of labour,
we may have a shortage of good labour. Things
are measured by output (at CGA) so if you
know a shift is supposed to give you 1,000
cases, if you keep on getting less than that,
it turns out to be the labour. Then you can
take action on that."
He added that low productivity could impact
T&T s overall productivity.
In early October, the World Economic Forum
released its competitiveness report placing
T&T at 89 for the second time. The report
indicated that poor work ethic in the labour
force is the most problematic factor for doing
Agostini said his company can boast about
employing people from mainly the Laventille
community and a small amount from other
Highly critical of measures to diversify T&T s
economy, he said: "Suddenly we want to diver-
sify the economy. Why? Because, there isn t
enough US dollars to be found. We (the man-
ufacturers) don t get any encouragement (to
diversify). We get nothing."
T&T has not done enough when it comes
"I remember, years ago, on the agriculture
side, we used to export. Those were the days.
We used to get a nice tax credit on export."
Not enough has been done to stimulate
diversification even though some farmers have
managed to be successful on their own.
"The most obvious thing you see is the state
of agriculture in this country. Not only is the
coconut industry dead, all of agriculture is
dead. Can you drive along the country side
and see prosperous farms along the way? What
we have left in agriculture is just the dregs of
the old agriculture and farmers who have one
acre or half acre farming, so we will never
have economies of scale."
There is need for dialogue between the Gov-
ernment and businesses which can stimulate
diversification, he said.
Crime and the company
Confident that his Eastern Main Road head-
quarters is the best place to be located, despite
intermittent robberies, he said talking to the
community helps in preventing some of the
His budget for security is not within the
million-dollar bracket because the company
does not hire any armed guards.
"We don t have any violence against people
here. Now and then our people get threatened
saying that they are not getting jobs, or they
want a job to paint the wall."
There are programmes to support the com-
munity, "through sponsoring sports day, cul-
tural events and talking to the leaders in the
He also said the company works with the
Success Laventille School located opposite to
Agostini said crime is everywhere and there
is no respect for anything.
OCTOBER 29 • 2015 www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
COVER STORY | BG5
From Page 4
CGA's coconut oil
per litre packaging
two litre packaging (cost per litre basis)
four litre packaging (cost per litre basis)
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