Parties to the dispute involving the Government’s proposed hike in its tariff on imported processed meat, have expressed satisfaction at the outcome of a meeting today that brought them together under the chairmanship of Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Development, Donville Inniss.
The meeting at the ministry on Reef Road, St. Michael, comprised representatives of the Barbados Manufacturers Association, the Barbados Agricultural Society, the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Subway, Burger King and senior officers from Inniss’ ministry and the Ministry of Foreign Trade.
The parties agreed to establish a committee which would thoroughly analyse all the issues that faced them and report back to Cabinet in three months with recommendations on a more permanent solution and for broader issues in the future, while not implementing — at least for the time being — the proposed increase in the tariff on processed meat imports, from 20 per cent to 184 per cent.
Chief Executive Officer of the BAS, James Paul said he believed the outcome was something his organisation could live with for moment.
“Certainly I believe the minister has identified what our main concerns are; and I believe that if all parties to the discussions honour their obligations, I think that we can move forward from here,” Paul argued.
“It has always been the objective of the BAS as far as this is concerned to ensure that we preserve local Barbadian jobs and even find ways to expand job creating as much as possible,” added the BAS boss.
“We are not here to shut any business. We welcome Subway because we see it as a new opportunity, a new challenge. In respect of Burger King, we also said very clearly that we are willing to work with the principals of Burger King to see how we can … cater to their needs,” Paul assured.
Executive Director of the BMA, Bobbi McKay, also welcomed the outcome of the talks, but rejected any suggestions that the dispute had anything to do with the quality and standards of local produce, but the process and procedures adopted to deal with the current matter.
“The other matter that must be said here as well is that we were operating in ignorance. We only had certain details, limited details, about the specifications required for the products,” added the BMA head.
She said that as a result of the meeting today, the operators will now be in a position to provide specifics required, whether in burgers or patties.
Chamber of Commerce, President Lalu Vaswani, was pleased too about the results of the discussions, but expressed the hope that in future, the commercial sector would be consulted first before any changes were made in tariffs or duties, or the like.
Subway’s Director Frederick George, echoed the satisfaction of the other parties, and pledged to work with local producers to take as much of their produce as possible. Given plans to open additional restaurants, George said he hoped Barbadian producers would be able to meet the demand for meats. † However, he urged Minister Inniss to favourably consider issuing licences to import meat, where local sources were unable to meet demand. (EJ)††