by Emmanuel Joseph
The Government of Barbados has intervened in the food import duty “war” between local manufacturers and farmers and foreign restaurant franchises operating here.
Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, Donville Inniss, told Barbados TODAY this afternoon, he met this morning with the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry and representatives of Subway, Burger King and local supermarket owners to hear their concerns regarding the increase in tariff from 20 per cent to 184 per cent for imported processed meats. †Inniss said he also met yesterday with top officials of the Barbados Agricultural Society and the Barbados Manufacturers Association.
“The intention is on Friday morning, to bring all parties together at my office to discuss and see if we can find a resolution to it. We are working on it, through my ministry,” he revealed.
Just last week, Chief Executive Officer of the BAS, James Paul, warned that more than 500 Barbadian jobs in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors would be in jeopardy if the Government implemented a suggestion by Subway to reduce the food import tariff on processed meat.
Taking a common position on this matter, Paul and Executive Director of the BMA, Bobbi McKay, were responding to a call by Frederick George of Alfundi Investments Limited, which operates the two local Subway Restaurants, to allow his company to continue paying 20 per cent tariff on its importation of the meat, instead of the 184 per cent, the business was just asked to pay.
But Paul charged that the lower rate which Subway was paying was a mistake within the system, in that the higher tariff had been in place for a long time now. Paul and McKay agreed that the 184 per cent was “something” they had to fight for in order to protect local manufacturers from unfair competition by foreign investors, whose products were heavily subsidised and who got very little of their items from local sources.
However, trade sources explained this evening that the 20 per cent duty might be something that Barbados had long committed to for goods covered under the tariff head “pre-cooked meats”, but authorities were continuing their research ahead of Friday’s meeting.
Meanwhile, the BAS and BMA heads hold fast to the position that farmers, feed producers and others in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors may have to send home workers and shut down, because they would not be able to compete with foreign businesses, which were already heavily subsidised.
The BAS head announced though, that the BAS and BMA had made representation to the relevant ministries to support them in their stand to keep the 184 per cent tariff in place as a protective measure for local businesses.†He said their aim was to ensure their members were protected.
The agricultural sector’s spokesman sought to make it clear that the rationale behind the high duty was to ensure there was a level playing field for local producers against commodities made in foreign lands.†He said Barbados therefore felt it had to provide some other level of protection, which came in the form of the tariff.
The chief executive officer also rejected the statement by the Subway management official that Barbados had the highest tariffs in the region.†He urged the official to sit down with his organisation and the BMA and discuss any challenges his restaurant may have regarding the supply of local produce. email@example.com