As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on global economies, various sectors in Trinidad and Tobago continue to demonstrate resilience.
Covid-19 has hit the retail sector hard, as closures and layoffs have reduced the overall income of the national economy and made people with jobs and incomes to be more careful about how they spend their money.
In its review for 2021, the Express Business spoke to a few key people in manufacturing, energy and business about their respective industries fearing for a second year in the face of the deadly virus that has disrupted global economies.
The director general of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Gabriel Faria, said the pandemic has severely affected small and medium-sized businesses and the self-employed, but the financial impact has not felt the same way among small business owners.
“While some are getting back on their feet, a significant percentage continues to struggle. Covid has had a profound impact on the finances of the self-employed, and it is clear that for many small businesses the crisis is far from over, ”he told Express Business.
Giving a perspective for the sector, Faria said the reality is that the cash and asset rich have done relatively well, as evidenced by the results of companies on the T&T exchange. This also applies to banks whose results show that they were not negatively impacted.
“Many small and medium-sized businesses have closed their physical locations, choosing to either sell online or even from their homes. There are industries and individuals whose businesses have been closed for almost two years and who have had to change their business models or embark on new types of businesses. Many have just closed their doors, while others have suffered significant declines in sales resulting in operating losses.
According to Faria, this crisis has created a practical and ethical imperative for Trinbagonians to focus less on our own agendas.
“There are opportunities, but we need government, workers and businesses to come together with a congruence of goals focused on restarting the economy by saving lives and livelihoods. This means that we must reach an immunization level of 80% by the middle of 2022 at the latest and that the government must also provide significant support to MSMEs, ”said the CEO of the House.
New stores during the pandemic
Earlier this month, Express Business highlighted First Retail Inc which opened its second Aeropostale store in the Trincity Mall.
The opening brought the number of stores the group opened during the pandemic to 11.
Group CEO Omar Hadeed, 37, said it has been a very difficult time, but as an industry that has faced many changes in recent years, the group has been able to adapt. and continue to develop within a space that has faced challenges from all angles.
“There has been a lot of talk about whether e-commerce will engulf physical stores, but the two are closely related and need to work hand in hand,” he said.
Despite setbacks due to lockdowns, the President of the Manufacturers Association of Trinidad and Tobago (TTMA), Tricia Coosal, said from reports from the Ministries of Trade and Industry and Finance, that the figures of non-energy exports for 2021 exceeded 2020 figures.
“The non-energy manufacturing sector has recognized that it is imperative that they continue to produce and supply the export market. Our producers not only continued to produce to facilitate local demand, but also ensured that regional food supplies were not hampered and / or adversely reduced.
Coosal pointed out that despite the challenges, many manufacturing companies were able to expand their operations beyond their previous export levels.
“Kamri Investments was able to export containers to Jamaica and Guyana by mid-2021 and also secured orders from Saint Lucia, Barbados and Curaçao; RHS Marketing Ltd expanded to new regional markets such as Martinique and secured new orders in North America; the HADCO group of companies, Nestlé, Blue Waters, CGA, Label House, SM Jaleel, Advanced Foam, ANSA McAL and Associated Brands Industries Ltd (ABIL), among others, are doing well in regional and international markets.
Asked whether manufacturing companies had to shut down, the TTMA chairman said no company owned by the association had notified them that they had been forced to shut down.
“Some may have, due to circumstances (period of closure and limited demand based on the closure of ports and borders, transformed their operations, downsized in some cases, reduced production in others, but no one ‘completely closed their doors. “
Coosal said that in 2022, the TTMA will position itself to continue helping members achieve stability and expansion.
“It is our hope, all other things being equal, that we can host our Trade and Investment Convention in 2022, which will generate great economic activity for local suppliers and manufacturers. “
In an interview in July, Associated Brands Industries Ltd, a local manufacturer and distributor of snack foods, chocolate candies, cookies and breakfast cereals, said it was looking to enter new export markets because 65% of the company’s income is generated in foreign currency. .
In September, its signature Catch candy bar began sales in the Republic of Cyprus, located in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Its executive director, Nicholas Lok Jack, 43, said the talks involved three years of back and forth, researching markets, finding the right distributor and also distributors who are on the same page.
The businessman further noted that although Catch is present in 20 other markets, there are more mature markets and markets in which ABIL is further consolidating its position.
Despite the pandemic and supply chain challenges, the energy sector has successfully completed major new gas development projects over the past year and new developments are also in the pipeline. That’s according to the CEO and President of Energy Chamber, Dr. Thackwray Driver.
Driver revealed that the rebound in commodity prices during the year obviously gave operators a welcome boost and helped the industry recover from an even tougher previous year.
He noted that the government’s clear recognition of the challenges posed by the energy transition and the opportunities the transition will create has helped focus industry discussions on the longer-term future.
Turning to 2022, Driver said it would be important to move the decarbonization agenda forward alongside this goal of attracting upstream investment and taking advantage of Trinidad and Tobago’s opportunities in green hydrogen and blue, carbon use and storage, energy energy efficiency, low carbon fuels and renewable energies.
“Caribbean regional integration in energy services remains a major potential policy area to boost competitiveness and should be a priority for all regional governments emerging from the pandemic. The energy industry has gone through a very difficult time but has continued to be of service to citizens and the Energy Chamber is confident that it will continue to do so in the future, ”added Driver.
Oil and gas company
Canadian company Touchstone Exploration, which operates on land in southern Trinidad, said it made “significant progress” in 2020 and 2021.
CEO and shareholder Paul Baay, in an interview with Express Business in February, said the company’s stock price on the Toronto Stock Exchange last February was US $ 0.35 and earlier. this year, the stock was around US $ 2.50.
This increased the overall value of the business from $ 30 million to around $ 500 million. He attributed the increased value of the business to the discoveries in Trinidad.
Asked how much capital expenditure Touchstone planned to spend in 2022 in Trinidad, Baay replied about $ 24 million.
But he added that assuming all gas production comes on stream as planned, capital spending could be around $ 40 million for 2022.
In September, Touchstone Exploration said its Royston-1 exploration well encountered significant accumulations of hydrocarbons based on drilling and wireline logging data.
The company said a total of 393 gross feet of oil was identified in two unique overlapping slicks in the Herrera Sands from 9,700 feet to full depth, with wired logs indicating the well was in oil. at full depth.
And earlier this month, the Canadian company announced light oil discoveries at its Trinidad Royston-1 onshore exploration well.
“The oil recovered was light sweet crude with an average API of 33 degrees (corrected to 60 degrees Fahrenheit) with sampling throughout flow tests indicating an average oil cut of 94% with some dissolved gas present. but not measured, ”the company said. .
He said the first and deepest Royston-1 completion and exploration test was designed to assess a downhole interval in the middle layer of the Herrera Formation.