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EXPORTS OF PAINTS, PIGMENTS, AND VARNISHES FROM THE UNITED STATES TO
DUTCH WEST INDIES
The existing market is exceedingly small and does not warrant any considerable expenditure to secure a larger share of the trade. The products of a Dutch and a British manufacturer are well known in Curacao and these together control a large share of the trade.
Curacao, however, is an important center for agents who operate in northwestern Venezuela and American travelers whó cover other near-by territory frequently visit Curacao. This can be accomplished without considerable expense and in a minimum of time, as there are excellent transshipment facilities.
The Virgin Islands comprise a group of over 50 islands in the West Indies, 40 miles east of Porto Rico. These were formerly known as the Danish West Indies. Only three islands in the group are of importance-St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John. The area is 132 square miles; the population, about 27,000. Fully 93 per cent of the inhabitants are negroes. The purchasing power is small.
The products of the Virgin Islands are chiefly agricultural and include sugar and sugar products, lime juice, bay oil, and bay rum. The language is English, and being å possession of the United States, the currency, weights, and measures are the same as are in use in the United States.
The principal town in the Virgin Islands is Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, population 8,250. Frederikstad, with a population of 3,000 is the principal commercial town of St. Croix, although Christiansted, or Bassin, has a population of about 4,600.
The total population of the island of St. John is less than 1,000.
MARKET FOR PAINTS, PIGMENTS AND VARNISHES
Paints and varnishes are not manufactured in the Virgin Islands and but little is imported. In the absence of official statistics showing imports into the islands, a fair idea of the type of materials used and the demand for recent years can be obtained from the statistics of exports of these commodities from the United States, as shown in the following table. In addition to the supplies obtained in the United States there was also a small trade with England during the period under review.
1 See more specific classification.
St. Thomas is a port of call and transshipment for many ships engaged in West Indian, Central and South American trade. The small paint trade of the islands is largely dependent on shipping trade not only for marine use but for the plant and equipment of the several firms engaged in the shipping industry. The inhabitants of the only town on the island depend very largely on harbor work. Most of the island's population is centered in the town and live in one or two story structures. The latter have red-tile roofs, from which the water is conducted into cisterns for household use.
The purchasing power of the natives is exceedingly small, for the majority are unskilled laborers working either at harbor work, which is irregular, or on the sugar estates or farms with a low scale of wages.
FRENCH WEST INDIES The French possessions in the West Indies consists of Martinique and Guadeloupe. Martinique is an island situated between the islands of Dominica and St. Lucia. The area is about 380 square miles; population estimated at 200,000. French white men dominate the island. They own and control most of the industries and represent about 10 per cent of the population. Fort de France is the capital and most important city in Martinique. It has a population of 30,000 and is an important coaling station. It has one of the best harbors in the West Indies, with a large dry dock and other facilities.
Guadeloupe consists of two islands about 80 miles from Martinique, situated between Montserrat and Dominica. The islands are separated by a narrow channel, known as Riviere Salee; the island on the south is called Basse Terre, and the one on the north, Grand Terre. The total area is about 619 square miles; population about 200,000, of which fully 75 per cent are Negroes. About 35 per cent of the foreigners are natives of France. Basse Terre, population 9,000, is the capital of Guadeloupe, and Pointe-aPitre, population 36,006, is the chief town.
The language employed is French, and very few of the inhabitants speak English.
The principal exports are sugar, rum, cocoa, and vanilla. There are 15 sugar factories and 137 rum distilleries in Martinique.
Paints and varnish are not manufactured in the French West Indies.
In the following table, which shows the imports into Guadeloupe, the amount received from the United States is separately specified. Practically all of the remainder originated in France.
IMPORTS OF PAINT AND VARNISH INTO GUADELOUPE, 1913, AND 1921-1923
Martinique is a smaller market than Guadeloupe for paint materials; the imports during 1920 amounted to $17,396 and in 1921 to only $11,578. Of these amounts the United States furnished about one-fourth.
TYPE OF PAINT REQUIRED
The scale of living is low, most of the houses for the laborers being mere huts. Much of the construction of the better class is of mahogany, seajou, or other hardwoods, whole edifices being so made, and the frequent coating with protective paints is not customary. The sun heat is very intense, but there seems to be no blistering, and the continuous dampness does not seem to mar paint coatings. although the average annual rainfall is 150 inches.
Colors in demand are light blue, light purple, slate, yellow, ochre, bright green, and white for exteriors and interiors alike. There does not seem to be any real idea as to the best colors to promote coolness. Roofs are often painted red, although the general practice in the West Indies is not to paint roofs, on account of the pressing desire to catch rain water, as surface water, while abundant always, is usually badly polluted.
While construction is very often in local hardwoods, a very considerable quantity of American yellow pine has been imported for use in floorings, rafters, joists, etc. The preservation of such wood by paint is usually disregarded. Perhaps one of the chief reasons is that paints are considered expensive and their use a real luxury. To preserve proper caste one must live in a painted house.
Wall papers are used very infrequently. It has been found that insects devour the paper, especially glues and pastes. The interiors of many of the houses are lined with wood, which is often painted red or decorated to imitate marble. Cold-water paint is used sometimes. Ready-mixed paints are not very popular in the French West Indies, painters preferring to do their own mixing of white lead, colors, and linseed oil.
OTHER MARKET FACTORS Quality. There are no government regulations concerning the composition and marking of paints and varnishes. As a rule, the purchaser gives more consideration to the quality of the goods than the price. Shipments of prepared paints have been made to the French West Indies that were not of a quality suitable for the climate and therefore did not give good service. It is suggested that American exporters of paints and varnish consider the climate of their foreign markets, so that suitable goods are always supplied.
Packing.–Prepared paints are usually preferred in 10-gallon round tins.
Vethod of distribution.-Hardware dealers handle the paint trade in the French West Indies. These dealers usually import their supplies direct, but a number buy from manufacturers' agents. One of the difficulties met with in securing agents on a commission basis is the method of business common in the islands. The retail merchants, as, a rule, import their own stocks. Practically all manufactured goods are supplied by French houses and the facilities to procure supplies are very good. There are no wholesale houses that handle paints, but established agencies representing foreign houses have been increasing in numbers, so that there is a possibility of securing a representative. Practically all of the import business of Martinique is done through Fort de France and agencies for the island are usually established in that city.
Employees or servants usually do, the work of painting, particularly in the country. In the cities workmen are engaged who understand the trade. Some of them are quite expert, especially those who do interior work. The painters are of the colored race and they would have very little influence with the property owner, although contracts are sometimes made whereby the contractor furnished his own paints.
T'erms.—Quotations are preferred c. i. f. and may be quoted in dollars or francs. American goods are invariably quoted in dollars because of the fluctuations in exchange. It is customary for purchasers to be allowed 2 per cent cash discount and many American firms grant 60 days' credit to old customers; French firms grant even longer credit. Much business has also been done in recent years on a basis of cash against documents.
Advertising.—The newspapers are the best advertising mediums. Outdoor billboard advertising is not in general use.
Tariff.—The tariff in effect in Martinique and Guadeloupe is that of France, with additional local duties termed “octroi de mer." French goods are assessed the octroi duties only, all others being subject to both.
UNITED STATES PARTICIPATION
The sales of American paints and varnishes in the French West Indies in pre-war and recent years have been exceedingly small. Total exports in 1913 amounted to only $1,116 and in 1923 the value was only $2,202. During 1918 and 1919, when it was difficult to obtain supplies from Europe, exports averaged $35,000 annually, but have since declined steadily, as will be noted from the following table:
EXPORTS OF PAINTS, PIGMENTS, AND VARNISHES FROM THE UNITED STATES TO
FRENCH WEST INDIES
Although the market is not large, it is a section of the West Indies in which American paint and varnish manufacturers do not hold the dominating position, as is the case in most of the other islands. The influence of French customs, tariff, exchange, and the economic policy of discouraging, as far as possible, all foreign goods that France might furnish very largely inhibits American paints and varnish, although the quality of the American goods is recognized.