Bajan rum producers may need to explore the possibility of making specialty rums as a niche to compete with large manufacturers of the beverage.
This was the observation yesterday of Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business, Donville Inniss.
About four months ago Inniss toured Foursquare Rum Distilleries and it was announced that the producer had secured a multi-million dollar contract with Moet Hennessy of France to produce their 10 Cane rum. The minister had promised to help producers access export markets.
Yesterday, he announced that he was working with Puerto Rico on the contentious issue of United States subsidies, an effort he hoped would yield success, even as he told other local producers that specialising might be the way to go.
There was a limit, he said, to which Barbados could implement and enforce duties, and the country also had to prepare itself for an open market trading system.
“I believe that what we will and continue to place emphasis on those niche areas that we can produce and are important to us and that we can have some value in the market. Take for example the rum industry. That has been under tremendous pressure from the US charging relatively high duty on rum products coming into the US market, and the duties there are used to subsidise operations in Puerto Rico and the USVI now,” Inniss noted.
He said that translated to over $400 million in annual subsidies to these countries, impacting Barbados’ exports and market share.
“As a government we have decided to take on that battle with USA. I would have led a delegation to Puerto Rico a few weeks ago to meet with their Secretary of State as well as representatives of the rum industry over there and I can safely say we do have an understanding with Puerto Rico that they will work with Barbados to seek to reduce the percentage of that cover-over subsidy that goes to the rum industry,” he said, adding that lobbying the US Government would continue as well to get local rums into that market.
Noting that it provided an opportunity for Barbados to look at its rum and sugar industry, Inniss said: “Our rum industry has to aggressively explore opportunities for specialty rums. I note that Foursquare recently landed a contract worth almost $100 million for the production of 10 Cane rum and I think these are the areas, the direction Barbados has to go in.
“We cannot compete with the mass produced items. We have to find our niche and aggressively pursue them with the Barbados brand,” he added. (LB)