While the export of bulk rum from Barbados took a nosedive between 2010 and 2014, branded rum witnessed an almost 100 per cent increase over the same period, Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss revealed last evening, as he highlighted the contribution of that industry to the local and regional economies.
In an address to the annual West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers’ Association (WIRSPA) technical seminar and rum tasting event at the Accra Beach resort, Inniss said the contribution of the rum industry to the economy was often under appreciated.
“In 2010 we exported some $40 million in bulk rum from Barbados and that decreased to about $32 million by the year 2014 . . . What is interesting is that the exports of branded rum increased during the corresponding period from some $25 million up to $41 million . . . So we do have a lot to celebrate in this region in terms of the rum industry,” said Inniss.
He said there were currently 30 major rum companies in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) producing about ten main brands of rum, 15 niche brands and about 70 brand variants, employing some 10,000 people directly and another 100,000 indirectly.
“In terms of economic contribution, I don’t think that even at my level as policymakers we appreciate sometimes the immense contribution that the rum industry has been making over the years, continues to make, and will continue to make going forward in this particular area.
“Right now the rum industry for the region earns over US$500 million in foreign exchange and I believe pays in excess of US$250 million in taxes directly and indirectly to regional governments. So I believe you do lead the pack in terms of the said tax that we politicians certainly like to collect,” he said, adding that the development of the industry over the years was partly due to the partnership with the European Union.
Despite these developments Inniss said it was critical for rum producers to work closely with exporters and other agencies in order to make their products more accessible in other markets, applauding “some successes” in Belgium and Germany and “strides” in Italy and Mexico.
So far the EU has provided the region’s rum industry with $70 million euros in grant funding, helping in a number of areas including marketing, capacity building, training and certification of an authentic Caribbean rum mark, the development of an online platform and participation in international events.
Chairman of WIRSPA Dr Frank Ward said the development of the authentic Caribbean rum mark was critical to the region given the rapid increase in global competition.
“Many of the companies which are part of the WIRSPA fraternity are by global standards, extremely small. So we need to find for ourselves some sort of competitive edge; and our association and its members have decided that our competitive edge lies not with volume, but producing higher added value products, even though they will be relatively small volume,” said Ward.
Over a dozen representatives from distilleries across the region have gathered here for the three-day seminar at the Accra Beach resort where they are expected to share experiences and discuss issues facing the industry.
They are also expected to have discussions on a number of areas of importance to the industry, including packaging, blending and issues relating to quality. (MM)