Barbados is looking to boost its earnings from rum, which remains a vital foreign exchange earner for the island.
Word of this from Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who reported at the weekend that the export of rum remains a significant contributor to this country’s economy, based on earnings of $70.9 million in 2011, $82.4 million in 2012, $86.1 million in 2013, $78.7 million in 2014 and $76.2 million in 2015.
Addressing the launch of Mount Gay Distilleries’ XO Cask Strength limited edition at the weekend, he said he was therefore looking to create more opportunities for the sale of Barbados’ rum. The idea being to convert bulk rum into the branded product.
“The expansion programme consists of three components: the geographic federation of Barbados’ rums supported by a Barbados rum marque, the development of a strategic repositioning of the industry to incrementally convert bulk rum to primarily branded rum; and an ongoing promotional campaign in the tourism sector to secure Barbados rum brands as a spirit of choice across hotels and bars,” Stuart told the gathering which included
top officials of Government and the Opposition.
He explained that the modernization and restructuring of the industry had become necessary, following the end of the Lome Convention, under which exports of rum from African, Caribbean and Pacific states previously enjoyed duty-free access to the European market.
Since then, he said, the competiveness of locally produced rum in international markets has been challenged considerably as producers are forced to compete with heavily subsidized spirits produced in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, through the United States Cover-over subsidies.
However, Stuart said while the granting of this subsidy has adversely affected Barbados’ rum industry and has contributed to a decline in exports to the US, “this industry is determined to show its ability to adapt and maintain its place in the markets of the world”.
In this regard, he said over the past decade Barbados, and its partners in CARIFORUM – comprising the 15-nation Caribbean Community and the Dominican Republic – have had access to funding through the European Development Fund to modernize their industries, enhance competitiveness, expand export markets and increase market share.
The Prime Minister stressed the uniqueness of Barbados’ rum, saying it was the product of “a craft developed and refined over centuries”.
“Barbados and the region must forge ahead to retain their position as world renowned producers of rum,” he said.
Also addressing the launch of the limited edition, which is in honour of Barbados’ 50th anniversary of independence, Mount Gay’s Managing Director Raphael Grisoni said while the company had reinvented itself over the years, it remains true to its origin and heritage.
“Currently our exports represent 80 per cent of our operations and it is our aim to continue on this path and expand even more. Going forward, our new premium strategy will be based on seeking value rather than volume with premium products/blends that will meet the growing demand in the USA, Canada, Europe and Asia/Pacific.
“Please be assured, however, that our Barbados market will not suffer as a result. Barbados remains our heart and our home market – the window to the world of our brand and, more importantly, our history, our heritage, our lifestyle and our spirit,” Grisoni said.