The Export-Import Bank of Trinidad and Tobago (Eximbank TT) has launched a US$100mn forex facility to provide local exporters with much-needed US dollars to pay their international suppliers. The funding is being provided by the government to improve manufacturers’ access to raw materials so that export activity can be boosted.

In order to qualify, a business must export a minimum of 30% of its production and agree to repatriate a certain amount of its forex earnings, a spokesperson from Eximbank TT tells GTR.

It is has become “very challenging” for manufacturers, both large and small, to access US dollars, the spokesperson says. Economists put this down to a sharp decline in oil prices at the end of 2014 followed by a drop in the country’s energy exports.

“The new facility is supposed to enhance our country’s export potential,” the spokesperson adds.

While Trinidad & Tobago is predominantly a producer of oil and gas, it has one of the strongest manufacturing bases in the Caribbean Community (Caricom), according to Eximbank TT’s website. In addition to energy products, the country produces a wide range of locally manufactured goods in the food and beverage sector, tobacco products, miscellaneous chemicals, printing and packaging, wood and wood-related products and cement.

The Trinidad & Tobago Manufacturers Association indicates that there are more than 200 manufacturers operating in Trinidad and Tobago.

According to data provided by the Central Statistical Office (2011), 95% of all products exported from Trinidad and Tobago are produced locally.

The new forex facility augments Eximbank TT’s existing portfolio, which includes raw material financing, asset financing, export credit insurance and invoice discounting.

Trinidad & Tobago’s ministry of trade and industry is separately providing local manufacturers with sums of up to TT$250,000 for the purchase of equipment to produce better quality goods in order to increase competitiveness on the international market.