Friday, February 19, 2010

Belize update on latest developments on Citrus Growers Board control fight.

by Ray Auxillou

Banks Holdings directors had stated in television interviews that the only return on investment they were getting would be the dividends and that was the reason to build a successful operation on a sound financial footing in the Pomona Valley. ( postponing dividends until 2013 ) The CGA ( local citrus growers group ) said differently. They said that Banks Holdings investors were marketing and distributing their product, and were in fact getting cash flow from selling their product.
There was certainly a lot of confusion in local circles here in Belize. I myself thought they were some sort of Investment Bank, or a Commercial Bank. Channel 7 television news today explained the misconceptions among the Belizean public. The investors in the Citrus Factory in Belize are in fact a beverage factory company, selling juices and soft drinks out of Barbados, as middlemen around the CARICOM market. Similar to our Bowen and Bowen local company that manufactures Belikin Beer and Coca Cola.
To some extent this changes perceptions in Belize. Not a whole lot, because Banks Holdings brought valuable technical expertise in processing, packaging, value adding, brand name identification and distribution to the Belizean establishment with their $60 million dollar investment in the local citrus factory. Something we have needed for a long time. As a young pioneer primitive society we are gradually changing from a raw commodities supplying country to be exploited, to something more.
The way forward is to copy the Banks Holding successful distribution, marketing system for many products in Belize. Not only for citrus juices. In that sense a Jamaican company is doing something similar in Belize. We have them on the BLOG here someplace. Forget the name? ( just looked it up - Grace Kennedy Ltd. of Jamaica - they also are looking to get local producers to use their brand name and market their products )
The next 15 years should be spent by the CGA, by SAVING ( not borrowing ), then reinvesting in their own product of juices. There is nothing stopping the CGA with a new company, from going to the next step in the self education process. Which is to buy your own rolls of packaging foil materials. Register a company and a brand name ( in Spanish ) and start a fledgling pilot project to market juices like this into Central America, which is a much bigger market than CARICOM. The CGA could in fact form a company to distribute and market raw citrus products from other Central American countries and duplicate what Banks Holdings are doing with them in Belize, throughout the Central American region. This is a learning process and you have to go in incremental steps. The biggest difficulty with a distribution marketing brand name business, is collecting your money on time, from wholesalers and retailers selling your product throughout the Central American countries.
Even the new off shoot of this squabble, the new citrus association should be aiming at this same goal. The Mennonites have both the money and expertise to do the processing manufacturing part, but a larger Central American distribution, marketing sytem is currently beyond their areas of expertise they have acquired over the past 50 years. Processing, the value added product, and the establishment of a brand name, with an associated company, to spread out in other products throughout Central America is a BIG OPPORTUNITY. Copy the successful Banks Holdings model. To do this the Citrus Growers would have to form another couple of companies and acquire a whole lot more sophistication and expertise than they are now showing. The way forward is clear. It is a long 15 year process of SAVING, STRUGGLING and RE-INVESTING for citrus growers. Dr. Henry Canton is currently the acknowledged local expert in this field in the local arena. The CGA are claiming he is already doing something on the side in this line. More power to him! He does however need finance and product to be successful. It is in group action and the formation of new investment vehicles to do this that the CGA members can transform themselves from just growers, to middlemen, distributors and marketing, where the real money is made. Borrowing loan money is not the way to do it, despite the blandishments of politicians and bureaucrats from Belize City (gimmee dollar crowd ) Selling shares in a joint venture is the way to go. ( You don't have to pay interest, or pay back share investment money) Eventually you get listed on an International Stock Exchange. In the meantime, use the BANKS HOLDINGS operation in Belize and around CARICOM as an example of where you want to grow to, here in Belize. You now have your foot in the door, can the CGA growers evolve to the next step, as middlemen?

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