Curaçao - Caribbean oasis and Exporters' paradise

Curaçao - Caribbean oasis and Exporters' paradise

By: Sushmita Ramjohn

862 kilometres. That’s the unobstructed distance between Trinidad and Curacao, an island just off the coast of Venezuela, lined with majestic white sand beaches and vibrant architectural sites. A World Trade Organisation (WTO) Accessions Newsletter in 2020, stated that there have been negotiations for increasing bilateral trade between T&T and Curacao since 2018. While no trade agreement has been announced by either country, Curacao was identified as a market of interest for exports in the National Export Booster Initiative for the Manufacturing Sector 2021. The Export Booster Initiative (EBI), which is valued at TT $50 Million, is being undertaken by exporTT and the Ministry of Trade and Industry with the aim of increasing nonenergy exports and developing overseas markets for local T&T products. There is also a collaboration with entities such as The Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturer’s Association (TTMA), Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI), Fashion TT and others for events such as participation in trade missions and capacity building. Under the EBI a Curacao market survey was conducted in 2021, followed by a virtual trade mission to Curacao, conducted by the TTMA. These two activities revealed potential in the market and paved the way for an in-person Trade Mission to Curacao, which is scheduled for the 1st to 4th November, 2022.

Photo by Lakeisha Bennett via Unsplash

In Curacao, which has a significant servicebased economy, tourism, oil refining, financial services, ICT and bunkering account for some 84% of the country’s GDP. The 444 km2 island has no developed manufacturing sector and its imports in 2020 were valued at $856 Million USD. This means that there is a significant reliance on imports for consumer and capital goods. In contrast, exports were valued at just $143 Million USD in the same year. Additionally, Curacao provides the perfect getaway oasis for tourists while also affording a paradise of opportunities for the exporters of Trinidad and Tobago in the areas of food and beverage and construction. 

The first area of interest for T&T’s exports is in the food and beverage sector. Given the size of the tourism industry and the role it plays in Curacao, exports from Trinidad and Tobago would not only cater to the Curacao citizens but to tourists as well. In 2021, Curacao noted a total of 265,000 tourist arrivals according to the Curacao Tourist Board and it is expected that the 2022 figure will surpass this. This figure encompasses day trippers, cruise arrivals, overnight stays etc. In addition to Curacao’s population of 152,369, all the tourist arrivals represent a market for exporters. According to the International Trade Centre’s website, as a market, Curacao has untapped import potential in various products which means that Curacao has the capacity to import more. The products with more potential to import include food preparations, water, non-alcoholic beverages and prepared sauces. Coincidentally all of these items are on the list of the top 50 exports of Trinidad and Tobago. Entering the Curacao market, as advised by Jonckheer Advertising, the consultant who conducted the virtual trade mission, can be done in three ways which include partnering with a local distributor in Curacao, direct B2B meetings and establishing an office and operations in Curacao. Products in the food and beverages category have no specific requirements for entry into the Curacao market, except for the provision of a mandatory expiration date printed on edible items and that labels must indicate the ingredients of products and the size and quantity of an item. In the absence of a trade agreement, a tariff would apply; the customs tariff applied on products depend on the HS Code and range from 5.5% to 35%. Food preparations, for example, under HS Code 21069010 have a 12% tariff. For further information on tariffs, exporTT’s Research and Opportunity department can be contacted.    


Photo by Dave Drury via Unsplash

The second area of interest for T&T exporters is the construction sector. Recently, the in-market consultants described the developments in Curacao as a ‘building boom’, particularly in the hotel industry, and stated that there is also an interest in renovating the older buildings. It is recommended to use a distributor from Curacao if entering the market with building materials. The two established companies in Curacao that the consultant recommends are Kooyman and Building Depot. The consultants also mentioned that companies who are environmentally conscious may have an advantage if they indicate that their packaging for consumer goods is recyclable and biodegradable. This can be extended to other products and may also provide producers of building materials with an advantage if they indicate the environmental impact of their products. exporTT has a Standards Implementation Grant and International Certification Fund which can assist in meeting market entry requirements. The tariffs applied to construction goods, like in the food and beverage sector, also depend on the HS code. For example, cement with HS Code 252100 has a tariff of 10.5%.  


Curacao is a beautiful island with rich heritage and just as rich landscapes and scenery with an added incentive: there is an opportunity for business. T&T can offer products in the food and beverage sector as well as the construction sector and potentially access a market that includes both the local Curacao population and their visitors. It is advised, however, to contact distributors in Curacao who have experience with importing rather than entering the market without their expertise. There is a market for T&T’s products in Curacao because of Curacao’s propensity to import due to the characteristics of its economy. exporTT looks forward to the upcoming 1st to 4th November Trade Mission and tapping into that existing market potential together with our local manufacturers and service providers. 

Press Release: Made in T&T products are a hit in Panama – exporTT makes a return to in-person trade shows

Press Release: Made in T&T products are a hit in Panama – exporTT makes a return to in-person trade shows

After two years of promoting Trinidad and Tobago’s products via virtual trade missions, expos and shows, exporTT finally returned to physical trade shows on March 23rd, taking Trinidad and Tobago products to Panama for the Expocomer International Trade Exhibition.  


exporTT is the national export facilitation organisation of Trinidad and Tobago, and is charged with, among other things, the promotion of Trinidad and Tobago’s products to viable buyers overseas. exporTT’s attendance at Expocomer 2022 was funded under the Export Booster Initiative of the Ministry of Trade and Industry.  


Expocomer, which is coordinated by the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture of Panama, took place from March 23rd to 26th, 2022, and featured over 600 exhibitors from more than 30 countries.  


Among them this year, was Trinidad and Tobago.  

Pictured at the Trinidad and Tobago booth at Expcomer 2022 (L-R) Yerhei Carreño, translator, Roann David, Business Advisor, exporTT, Nathali Richards, Senior Business Advisor, exporTT, and Kenika Baldeo, Research Officer, exporTT.

A wide variety of products in the food and beverage category were on display for visitors to the booth, including candy and mints from KC Confectionery Ltd, Matouk’s pepper sauce, Swiss condiments and pasta, Angostura rums and bitters, crackers and biscuits from Bermudez Biscuit Company, chocolate from Montanos Chocolate, malt drinks from the Samba Brewing Company, Toppers snacks and Chubby soft drinks. Associated Brands, who also exhibited at the event, displayed Sunshine Snacks, Sun Mix and Charles Chocolates products at the exporTT booth.  

Carib Brewery, Stuart Brothers Ltd and FashionTT had a virtual presence at the exporTT booth, providing video and written collateral to share with visitors.  


exporTT was represented at the event by Ms. Nathali Richards, Senior Business Advisor, and Mrs. Kenika Baldeo, Research Officer, from the Research and Opportunities Unit, as well as Ms. Roann David, Business Advisor, from the Capacity Building and Programme Funding Unit.  

Commenting on the reception to the Trinidad and Tobago booth, Ms. David said, “We were pleased that visitors welcomed Trinidad and Tobago as one of the two CARICOM countries in the pavilion. They were eager to sample and receive additional information including pricing and product specification.” 

Ms. Richards, who led the exporTT team in Panama, said returning to in-person trade shows was a significant development for the company and its clients. 

She said, “Exhibiting in person allows you to receive first hand feedback from a potential lead on the products sampled and exhibited. Expocomer 2022 gave us the opportunity to re-connect with buyers in Panama and other Central American markets, re-introducing Trinidad and Tobago as a potential supplier.” 

Kenika Baldeo, Research Officer, exporTT, attends B2B meetings at Expocomer 2022.

Mrs. Baldeo added, “Through this event, exporTT was able to meet with over fifty potential buyers of T&T products within a four-day period; compare this to the ten to fifteen buyers we would have had access to through a consultant on a virtual platform. These buyers hail not only from within Panama but the USA, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and others, totalling ten potential markets that T&T suppliers can have access to.  

“The research portion of this activity also benefited us as we were able to conduct store checks which examined the layout of products within supermarkets and identified competitors as well as meet with key government agencies. We expect that exporTT’s clients will benefit from this activity.” 


The team also received positive feedback from the Chargé d’affaires a.i. of the Embassy of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in Panama, Jerome Joseph, who visited the booth at Expocomer throughout the event and provided support to the exporTT team where needed.   

He said, “exporTT had secured a booth for the event and, through that agency, gave a strong showing on behalf of a multitude of manufacturers from Trinidad and Tobago. The excellence of the three-person team from ExporTT must be underscored. Their knowledge of the products being showcased made for fruitful engagement with prospective distributors and buyers. They were well-received at the forum and networked assiduously to garner interest and increase the visibility of Trinidad and Tobago. 

It is hoped that participation in future similar forums, including Expocomer 2023, would include a physical presence from the manufacturers themselves which would serve to enhance Trinidad and Tobago’s level of representation. 


All things considered, it is the Embassy’s perspective that exporTT’s high level of engagement at Expocomer 2022 bodes well to further strengthening trade relations with our Latin American neighbours and the wider international business community. 

Press Release: Manufacturers get support with labelling, product testing needs from exporTT

Press Release: Manufacturers get support with labelling, product testing needs from exporTT

On Friday 4th March, 2022, exporTT, the National Export Facilitation Organisation of Trinidad and Tobago, launched a new funding opportunity aimed at manufacturers.    


The Labelling and Product Testing Fund, a project of exporTT Ltd under the Export Booster Initiative (EBI), is designed to facilitate product testing, product and/or packaging modification and labelling redesign required to meet preferences and requirements in export markets.    


The fund is aimed at companies that: 

  • Have potential export orders and require testing of products to ensure target market standards are met  

  • Are seeking to enter new markets where packaging changes are required to meet the entry requirements 
  • Require testing for nutritional content and regulated substances such as, but not limited to, heavy metals and cadmium 
  • Need product modifications based on documented buyer or market requirements  
  • Require their product to undergo physical or formulation modifications in order to meet target market requirements based on buyer preference  


The fund will cover 75% of the cost of product testing, product modification, packaging modification and labelling redesign up to a ceiling of TT$80,000 per beneficiary.  

According to Crisen Maharaj, Manager of Capacity Building and Programme Funding, the Labelling and Product Testing Fund gives exporters that final push into securing sales for their products in a foreign market.  


Many companies, after they have B2B meetings with prospective buyers, get potential sales but there would be minor requirements to be satisfied before they could actually finalise sales. For example, a buyer would say that the market does not accept bottles of a certain size packaging, or there may be particular colours that are not socially acceptable for products in a certain market. Companies can incur significant costs to make these changes, especially when dealing with multiple SKUs. This fund will help companies overcome these last set of hurdles in finalising a sale.” 

Businesses of all sizes are invited to apply for this funding, as, according to Maharaj, costs incurred by companies in order to meet some of the required standards and certifications for entry into certain markets can be especially prohibitive for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs). 


exporTT Ltd will be collaborating with the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association and EXIMBank, in the execution and implementation of this funding for eligible companies.  

Interested companies can find more information and apply to the fund by visiting exporTT Ltd’s website –

Press Release - Aspiring exporters wanted for Export Incubator and Accelerator Programmes

Press Release - Aspiring exporters wanted for Export Incubator and Accelerator Programmes

Navigating the world of exporting can be a daunting task. Many companies consider exporting as the next step in their business plan, and have the potential to succeed as exporters, but need focused, tailored support in achieving their goals in the export arena.  


In response to this challenge, exporTT, the national export facilitation organization of Trinidad and Tobago, developed two programmes, similar in nature, but each targeting different companies based on their experience with exporting.  


The Export Incubator pilot programme, launched in August 2021, is designed to support businesses with no export experience, while the Export Accelerator, launched in July 2021 under the Export Booster Initiative, caters to companies with minimal export experience. In both programmes, exporTT works with companies to maximise their export capabilities.  

In the Export Incubator and Export Accelerator Programmes, participating companies benefit from in-market research, export training, one-on-one export coaching, export training and consultancy, development of their digital catalogue and company profile, business matchmaking and access to export financing from exporTT. 


Mandisa Granderson, exporTT’s Client Services Manager said: “The Incubator was borne out of the need to create new exporters. Through the pilot programme we learned even more about the unique needs of companies at this stage, took those learnings and used them to enhance our offering to companies this year. 


“In terms of the Export Accelerator, our first cohort has made great strides in their development to date. As a direct result of our interventions and the guidance provided by their coaches, companies have developed market penetration strategies, diversified product lines, expanded their digital marketing, seen an increase in orders and even entered new markets. We are still working and building but this progress tells us that we are doing something right. We are seeking another batch of companies that are similarly committed to their export growth so that we can exceed these results by the end of the programmes.” 


To be considered eligible to participate in either of the programmes, companies must meet the following criteria:  

  • Locally registered manufacturer 
  • Supplying major retailers for a minimum of 2 years 
  • Have sound financials and the ability to financially invest in exporting 
  • Have sufficient human resources (both management and staff) to dedicate to export focus 
  • Have excess production capacity to dedicate to exports 

Companies with no export experience will be eligible for the Export Incubator Programme, while companies with very little export experience will be considered under the Export Accelerator Programme 


Among the companies who participated in the Export Incubator pilot programme were Bwana Business Incorporated, Montanos’ Chocolate Co., Happy Girls, Happy Curls Ltd. and Pascal’s Bakery.  

Participants in the first cohort of Export Accelerator included Trincarb, Twigs Naturals, Ice Connection Industries, Lifetime Solutions, Steel-framed Engineered Solutions, Caribbean Adhesives and Chemicals Ltd., Supplies in Paper Structure (SIPS), Fresh Start and Farm and Function.

Through their participation in the first cohorts of these programmes, a number of these companies have gone on to review and revise their logo and packaging, apply for necessary certifications, develop detailed export plans and strategies, made structural and process changes within their businesses to align with those export strategies, and gain buyer interest in new markets.  


Interested persons can find more information and apply to the Export Incubator Programme by visiting and to the Export Accelerator Programme by visiting 

About exporTT Ltd  

exporTT is Trinidad and Tobago’s Official Export Facilitation Organization. Overseen by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, exporTT’s main aim is to boost both the dollar value of national non-energy exports and range of goods and services exported from Trinidad and Tobago. 


About the Export Booster Initiative  

The Export Booster Initiative was developed by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, in collaboration with exporTT Ltd and the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA) in a strategic effort to counteract the impact of COVID-19 on the manufacturing sector. The Export Booster Initiative is geared towards developing overseas markets and promoting exports. 

The EBI consists of sixteen initiatives under three broad strategic areas, namely Export Promotion, Capacity Building and Institutional Strengthening.