There is still uncertainly about the way forward for Barbados conglomerate Goddard Enterprises, as it awaits a meeting with Industry and Commerce Minister Donville Inniss before deciding on whether it will stop investing here.
At the invitation of Inniss, the company delivered a note to the minister’s office yesterday that indicated its readiness to meet, but it has so far received no response.
The minister’s invitation was issued over the weekend at the 25th anniversary celebrations of Goddard company McBride Caribbean, after group chairman Charles Herbert said that as long as the future regime for tariffs and duties remains uncertain, Goddard would make no new investment in the local plant or equipment for the local market.
“And if this situation continues for too long, then we will make these investments in other countries and the opportunity for Barbados will be lost forever,” he said.
Herbert told Barbados TODAY this morning the communication left for Inniss yesterday sought to not only request a meeting but to explain Goddard’s position.
He reiterated that indecision and delays were crippling the company’s growth plans in Barbados and explained that the ultimatum of sorts he issued this weekend was provoked by Government’s continued hesitation in making a decision in the battle between local producers and fast food franchises over the level of tariffs on processed meat.
“There are rumours of them removing tariffs because Subway and Burger King have been campaigning strongly against them. One month they are saying thwy are thinking of doing it, and we hear rumours that the tariffs will go to zero, the next week there are rumours that the tariffs will drop from 184 per cent to 100 per cent,” Herbert said today.
“But the rumours have gone on . . . . We have had several meetings with the minister . . . but they just don’t make a decision. The issue here really, the ultimatum – if you want to call it an ultimatum – is for them to make a decision.”
“Just not making a decision means that other people can’t make decisions and nothing happens, so it is just the uncertainty where Government fails to act. Sometimes making the wrong decision is better than making no decision, because then people know where they stand,” Herbert added.
Goddard Enterprises has been in existence since 1921, and is reporting total income of $18.2 million for the nine months leading up to June 2014 with net assets of $566.8 million, employing 5,023 across the Caribbean and Latin America.
The group, which has 18 companies in Barbados, capitalizes on tariff protection for production of processed meats from locally reared animals.
Herbert explained how one of the Goddad companies, Hipac Ltd, which provides a range of canned products under the Eve brand for local shelves, would be affected by adjustments to the tariffs.
“Hipac is a producer of processed meat which is protected by tariffs. If tariffs fall by too much Hipac will not be able to compete. But some reduction could be tolerated and what we would like to see is a staged reduction over [about] ten years to a much lower level. This would force efficiency but give time to adjust,” he said.
Insisting that Goddard Enterprises was not seeking to influence Government’s decision either way, the group chairman added: “We just want to know what the decision is so we can put our house in order and do what is right for us.”
At the same time, Herbert said, doing “what is right” for the company could mean investing elsewhere if Government’s final decision on processed meat tariffs did not favour local producers.
“We all have choices where we invest our money, so Government’s right is to make policy and our right is to decide where we invest.”