Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 10th 2016 Contents BG6 NEWS
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt MARCH 10 • 2016
The National Flour Mills
(NFM) search for new mar-
kets will help ease the prob-
lem of insufficient supply
of foreign exchange, says
Michael Bazie, the chairman
of the majority state-owned
"At the NFM, we have historically generated
a model in which most of our raw materials
and grain purchases are paid for in US dollars,
but our sales are in TT dollars. Given the pres-
ent situation where there is this tight foreign
exchange earnings situation, we feel that we
must engage in this thrust of market pene-
tration regionally to begin to address this
imbalance," he said.
Bazie was speaking at a media conference
last week Thursday at NFM s head office,
Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain.
Bazie, who speaks fluent Spanish, has been
NFM chairman since 2013 and is a former
director at eTeck.
According to a media release from NFM
after the tour of NFM s plant on Wrightson
Road on Thursday, the company has had strong
financial results over the last few years and
the search for new markets in Cuba and Latin
America will only strengthen the company s
"For the past three years, NFM focused sig-
nificant efforts and resources on accelerating
its growth strategies. The results of this is well
reflected in improved financial results over
the previous three successive financial periods,
including last year where the September 2015
financial results show significant improvement
over the same period in 2014. Based on our
2016 corporate strategic plan, it is expected
that our financial results will improve even
further in 2016."
NFM s statement also said over the last year
the "worsening foreign exchange situation"
characterised by extreme difficulty in obtaining
US dollars for purchasing raw materials caused
the company to accelerate its export drive to
include new market penetration simultaneously
with development of new products to satisfy
"New products developed recently include
-- Good nNatural Cracked Wheat and Lion
Roti and Doubles flour for the commercial
market while extruded fish foods for tilapia
and similar varieties of farmed fishes are being
produced for the growing aquaculture indus-
The safe quality food (SQF) system is one
of the highest and most recognised global sys-
tems for food quality. At NFM, this is being
implemented in 2016 with full certification
expected in March 2017. This will allow NFM s
products entry into the most stringent and
competitive markets like the USA.
According to NFM, the need to earn foreign
exchange is one of their major thrusts in 2016.
"The need to earn foreign exchange with
competitive products which provide value for
money continues to be our thrust in 2016. By
2017, we intend to increase export sales as a
percentage of total sales to 20 per cent from
the 2015 position of 12 per cent, to earn increas-
ing amounts of the foreign exchange that we
utilise. We will grow our existing markets in
Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana, Antigua, Suriname,
Grenada, St Vincent, St Kitts and St Lucia
while entering new markets in Cuba, Domini-
can Republic, Panama and Haiti in 2016.
Kelvin Mahabir, CEO of the NFM, who also
spoke at the press briefing, said this year NFM
will be making a strong effort to go not only
to Cuba but other Spanish-speaking markets.
"We do not only sell flour but seeds as well
as a number of other products. We have been
increasing those markets and, in 2016, we have
targeted to grow our markets because we need
to increase revenues. Also, because we need
to raise foreign-exchange earnings. The Cuban
market has been of interest to us for some
time. The ease of doing business with Cuba
will be significantly improved," he said.
The release also said that specific branding
will allow them to make entry at appropriate
price points into Spanish-speaking countries
like Cuba where there appears to be many
opportunities for their products such as flour,
fish feed and pets.
Guillermo Vazquez, Cuban Ambassador who
was part of the NFM plant tour, said Cuba
needs the products that NFM has to offer and
the north Caribbean country is interested in
doing business with NFM.
After the tour he had a closed-door meeting
with NFM s chairman and CEO.
Vazquez, who also spoke during the media
briefing, said Cuba has to identify what prod-
ucts are needed from NFM.
"I am not sure how many quantities we
may need and what are the products but we
have known the NFM since the 1980s," he
When asked by the media about doing busi-
ness in US dollars, he replied by saying that
Cuba accepts all other major currencies includ-
ing the euro and Canadian.
"At this moment because of the US embargo
it is not possible to use the US dollar. It is
important that we build relationships with
other countries in the region. We have relations
with Republic Bank and EximBank," he said.
He also said the TTMA would take six com-
panies this week to Cuba while NFM will visit
Cuba in April.
There is the T&T Trade Facilitation office
in Cuba that helps businesses.
Mahabir added that when NFM exports, it
prices in US dollars.
"In recent times our suppliers and bankers
have been able to use multiple currencies in
terms of making and settling payments. So
we now have options for euros, Canadian dol-
lars and, of course, the US dollars. Unfortu-
nately, they do not take TT dollars," he said.
The Cuban envoy, after the tour of the NFM
plant, praised it for being "modern and effi-
Mahabir also said that Cuba s tourism sector
is growing by leaps and bounds and it offers
even greater opportunities for a company like
"The tourism sector in Cuba is opening up.
Traditionally, it would have been Europeans
and Canadians. Now the US when they do
visit would go through Jamaica or one of those
countries. That also offers opportunities to
sell directly to those companies in the tourism
sector apart from the Government owned
companies that import food," he said.
According to the NFM, these were some of
the major points to come out of the meeting
with the Cuban Ambassador.
1. The Cuban ambassador highlighted his
desire for the doors to communication to be
kept open between Cuba and T&T so as to de-
velop and maintain cordial communications
between both countries and to foster mutual
business opportunities. He has already initi-
ated discussions with EximBank to facilitate
general business partnering opportunities be-
tween T&T and Cuba.
2. NFM will explore partnership opportuni-
ties with Cuban companies in the tourism in-
dustry such as hotels as well as with
government agencies and tilapia farms.
3. NFM will explore opportunities to import
raw materials from Cuba such as rice bran.
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