…company freezes employment – John Fernandes’ CEO
By Nadia Guyadeen
Chief Executive Officer of John Fernandes Limited, Chris Fernandes, says that exports are down significantly where his company is concerned.
He added that imports, while down, are only down marginally but as it relates to the exports there is cause for concern.
“Containerised export cargo movement is down about 50 percent on average over the last three months and that is significant…that is big. So its worrying times to say the least,” Fernandes noted.
John Fernandes Limited is one of the main cargo handlers in Guyana and has been so for many decades.
Fernandes, elaborating on how the financial crisis is affecting exports and his company as a consequence, added that what the Guyana Manufacturers and Services Association (GMSA) is saying ‘that export markets are drying up.
Guyana trades in commodities and the commodity pricing on the world market is being suppressed at this stage.
“The demand for our bauxite and our timber particularly is on the decline. We know what is happening with the sugar pricing in the European Market and the rice is also under severe stress because of the world market price.
The millers cannot afford to pay the farmers what they want for the paddy. So everything is very bleak as we look to the economic state of the country.”
Fernandes said that it is impacting his company because John Fernandes Limited has done quite a bit of export facilitation with respect to timber exports, which have been on the decline steadily.
“We have found in the last three months, particularly the timber exports have been on the decline so much so it is starting to impact on our earnings and we have in fact taken a decision to freeze employment.”
Fernandes asserted that he has called on management and supervisory staff to manage more strictly, reduce cost and overtime where possible, and reduce waste of consumables for the company to see this difficult period out.
“The difficulty we have, really, is that we don’t know how much worse it is going to get and how long it is going to be for.”
At the management level, he stated, they are trying to attract additional business, which will improve the revenue base and is also another way of trying to overcome the decline in some parts of the business like in the export trade.
He noted that Guyana’s main exports are timber, rice, bauxite and sugar and they are all under threat because of the global economic crisis.
He noted some furniture manufacturers indicated that the orders have slowed and he even saw in the press that some retrenchment has taken place.
“As the economic situation tightens, people will import less from us and as a country that will obviously impact on our balance of payment situation and all the other spin-offs that will come which the government will have a great task in managing the economy during this difficult period….We in the business sector are very worried because our business depends on trade – both import and export trade.”
Despite the current situation, Fernandes told this newspaper that he has no plans to lay off anybody within the foreseeable future.
“We are hoping that we can weather the storm and overcome.”
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