Nov 22, 2021 Letters
I write to highlight the story, if not plight of Princess, a small business owner from Guyana who participated in the just concluded Florida International Trade Conference and Expo (FITCE). Her business, Essence of Herbs was one of the few businesses from Guyana to exhibit at the event. Participation/exhibition in the event this year by companies from Guyana was severely restricted due to what I consider the flawed US policy which excludes the Sputnik V vaccine from the list required for entry into America. This policy did not only affect the participation of Guyana but several other countries as reflected in the almost 30 of the 240 booths not being occupied. This flawed policy was the focus of critical analysis of US policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean at a presidential forum of leaders from Latin America at the conference.
However, Princess, who participated in FITCE in 2019 and whose herbal teas “passed muster” for entry into the US market, has found herself in a dilemma, a dilemma being a problem the solution to which is a problem. Having determined in 2019 that her very attractively packaged herbal teas would enjoy a healthy market in the US and other places, Princess ordered equipment from a company in China to enhance her production capacity. She was able to attract assistance for the purchase from a Guyanese American who admired her drive and the potential for the development and expansion of her business which is located on the East Bank. She also, according to her, was the beneficiary of assistance from IPED which she has fully repaid. The dilemma she says is that the equipment which she ordered from China is defective and one piece, which she has never been able to use, is the wrong equipment.
She told a team from the Guyanese American Chamber of Commerce (GACC) that she is now unable to meet the demand for her product because the China made equipment is faulty and efforts to have the manufacturer/supplier address the issue has met with no meaningful help. The equipment was purchased for just over 25 thousand US dollars, plus shipping and duty.
“When I contact them in China all they keep telling me is read the manual. I spend money engaging an engineer to help fix the problem but the equipment still don’t work. I am not a big company so they don’t pay me any mind,” she said, surprisingly with a smile on her face. For all of us who listened to her plight, we are saddened by this experience which she has described. If her story is accurate, and I have no reason so far to doubt her, we are all convinced that the drive and entrepreneurial spirit of this woman should not be dampened nor shattered. We each have committed in various ways to help ensure this does not happen.
My initial contribution to help ensure that her business does not fail is to bring to the attention of the public, the Chinese Embassy in Guyana and the Government of Guyana the plight of Princess, which may well be the plight of others who have not been able to bring their dilemma to the attention of the relevant authorities. Whether equipment is purchased from China, Japan, India, the United States or any other part of the world, manufacturers and suppliers have a responsibility to deliver after sales service beyond referring purchasers to the manual. In the case of the purchases from the US, the Guyanese American Chamber of Commerce (GACC) stands ready to work with any business in Guyana which has a legitimate complaint about any issue affecting their relationship with businesses in the US. We have successfully addressed such issues before and will continue to do so.
Through this letter I hope the Chinese Embassy in Guyana would seek out Princess and spare no effort in having the supplier of the equipment give more meaningful attention to having her problem resolved. Small business owners who are seeking to expand their businesses honestly, and especially in this era of the pandemic, must not be shortchanged by suppliers, and when they are, no stone must be left unturned to call out such suppliers. There are at times similar problems for people who export agricultural produce from Guyana who have on occasions been told of spoilage which they are unable to verify. In the case of such exports being shipped by air via the Miami International Airport, any alleged spoilage can be verified by the US authorities quite easily.
I am also surprised that she was required to pay duty on the equipment. She told us that the process for duty free concessions in 2019 when the equipment arrived was taking long and she was being assessed storage charges, so she paid the duty.
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