The Eastern Caribbean export markets for potentially nearly a dozen Barbadian products – including those from Banks Holdings – are just about dried up as two more countries have invoked a measure to protect their products.
Chief executive officer of Banks Holdings Limited (BHL) Richard Cozier said St Lucia yesterday slapped a 70 per cent duty on its beers and soft drinks, following on the heels of St Vincent and the Grenadines. He said Grenada was also expected to follow suit shortly.
The BHL boss added that the duty would kill exports of his company’s beverages.
“You can’t get 70 per cent duty and still compete. They had [imposed the tariffs] about a year ago and then they revised it and we started back shipping. Now it is a cause for concern. It means we would have to revise our export plans,” Cozier said.
The Eastern Caribbean countries have joined a growing number of other Less Developed Countries (LDCs) of the Caribbean in invoking the Article 164 Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that authorizes the suspension of the duty-free access of products from More Developed Countries (MDCs).
The CARICOM Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) agreed to the measure at a 2006 conference.
“St Lucia yesterday invoked Article 164, putting 70 per cent duty on some of our products, so that market has gone to us now. Grenada is about to do it. The OECS [Organization of Eastern Caribbean States] is enacting Article 164 that would limit trade from Barbados in certain categories, especially in beverages . . . Those [OECS] markets would become non-existent now because of the 70 per cent duty,” Cozier stressed.
“CARICOM is divided into Less Developed and More Developed Countries. The Less Developed Countries can ship anywhere free of duty, but for the More Developed Countries, there are certain categories of goods the individuals countries can, if they so desire, enact Article 164. They have not done it for years, but obviously now they have their own challenges. They are doing it, I guess to protect their own manufacturers,” he added.
Cozier said it was too early to provide specific figures or details of how BHL would revise its plans to counter the latest move.
“The other markets are only Guyana where we don’t go for obvious reasons [there is a counterpart beverage company there]; Trinidad, where we want to go but there are obviously cost considerations there; and Jamaica, where shipping is a challenge,” he asserted.
However, Barbados would be affected by the St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada decision beyond BHL as there were a total of 11 types of products currently benefiting from Article 164 treatment.
These are: aerated beverages; aerated waters and other waters; beer; malt; candles of paraffin wax; curry powder; pasta; animal feeds (poultry, pig, other); wooden furniture; solar water heaters; and industrial gases (acetylene, oxygen, carbon dioxide).
Curry powder and pasta were granted five years protection; candles of paraffin wax, seven years; and aerated beverages, aerated waters and other waters, beer, malt, animal feed, solar water heaters and industrial gases were granted 10 years protection.
The agreed tariffs to be applied to these items when imported also vary and range from 30 to 70 per cent.
Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss could not be reached for comment.