Surge seen in sale of Chinese goods here

Toys and tool kits made in China.

Guyanese have an increasingly big appetite for Chinese goods and with no sign of this trend slowing, one retailer has called for more Chinese investment here.

Edward Boyer, Managing Director of National Hardware (Guyana) Ltd on Water Street said that over the last five years China has improved the quality of its goods to the extent that it now meets the standard of goods from North America and Europe.

He estimated that local consumption of Chinese products was over 50% of imports in these areas and noted that even if the finished product was not made in China then its components were more often than not made in China. Items like fans and television sets come in large quantities from China, as well as other household items.

Boyer called on the Chinese Embassy here to assist in bringing more investments here. "We can't have one-sided trade," he pointed out.

A recent Reuters article written from Johannesburg said that apparel manufacturers in Africa were buckling under the stiff competition from China. Many African manufacturers had closed their doors, because they could not compete with the cheaper prices of made-in-China clothing, resulting in the loss of over one million jobs.

Decorative Chinese vases and other goods at National Hardware.

Businessmen in Africa have also called for Chinese companies to establish manufacturing entities in African countries, instead of only importing large quantities of raw materials and exporting finished goods.

"The business community is calling on the Chinese government through its embassy to promote more Chinese investment [here]," Boyer told Stabroek News, adding that there needs to be more bilateral trade and investment. He explained that if one should add the value of the indirect trade of Chinese goods to the bilateral trade of US$25M (the figure for January to September this year) the importation of Chinese goods would be much higher.

At National Hardware, around 70% of all the goods in the store came directly from China in addition to made-in-China items imported through other countries.

Boyer said that at times he would import Chinese goods through Panama, Jamaica or from French Guiana. Boyer noted that China leads the world in production of hardware items, building materials, electronics, shoes and apparel.

Nicholas Boyer, a United States-based economist pointed out that one reason for the influx of Chinese goods and their low prices was because China has an enormous labour force. Hence, China could afford to pay lower wages than companies in Europe or North America, lowering the cost of production.

China's population hit 1.3 billion this year.

Nizam Ali, Gafoor's Director of Purchasing at its Houston Complex, told Stabroek News that consumers preferred to buy Chinese goods because they were cheaper. This trend, he said, began over 15 years ago and he expects it to continue.

Among the Chinese items that were price-competitive at the store were hardware, toys and decorative and household items. But similar items from places like India, Indonesia, South Korea and Thailand were also very price-competitive, Ali noted.

A check at Fogarty's supermarket revealed that a large percentage of the decorations for the holiday season and gift items carried the made-in-China label. However, it was not the same with cosmetics, food and liquor.

Public Relations Officer of the Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS), Evadnie Inniss-Fields, said the bureau did not check the quality of items based on their country of origin but if there were complaints, it would investigate those. Recently, a warning was put out on the quality of some Chinese kettles.

Speaking at the 73rd Berbice Chamber of Commerce and Development Association (BCCDA) annual luncheon on December 12, China's Ambassador to Guyana Shen Qing noted that this year there was an increase in trade with China and over the period January to September bilateral trade amounted to US$25.82M, an increase of 64% over the same period last year.

There was no information on the value of trade in each direction.

At that event, Shen urged the BCCDA to promote information sharing between the two sides, recommend good projects for investment and co-operation, provide consultative service, transmit wants and wishes to the government, clear barriers and create a more favourable environment.

A Chinese company is constructing the new sugar estate at Skeldon and the International Conference Centre at Liliendaal, funded and built by China, is to be handed over soon.