by Marlon Madden
One of Barbados’ leading rum producers is reporting a favourable performance in exports over the past year despite several periods of lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the same time, Managing Director of Mount Gay Rum Distilleries Limited Raphaël Grinosi said he was banking on a better sugarcane crop yield next year due to the recent ashfall from the La Soufrière volcano in St Vincent.
Grisoni told TODAY’S Business that the COVID-19 pandemic proved beneficial to the overall spirits industry to some extent, explaining that despite the closure of hotels, bars and party spots locally, the consumption of alcoholic beverages among individuals remained steady.
“There were effectively a positive trend on the consumption of spirit, people were consuming at home instead of going out. So the sales for supermarkets were going,” he reported.
“For Mount Gay specifically, more in the US and Western Europe, we saw some nice growth in our business in those countries, like also in Australia and New Zealand,” said Grisoni, who opted not to give figures.
Grisoni, who is a board director of the West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers’ Association, explained that sale of rum in Barbados and the rest of the region was down over the past year due to the closure of some of its highest users – hotels, restaurants, bars and entertainment spots.
“In the Caribbean we are effectively struggling. The business in the Caribbean is struggling but other countries are doing effectively well, contributing to the foreign exchange of Barbados and contributing also to maintaining the jobs in our rum industry in Barbados, which I think is critical for the future of the country,” he added.
Grisoni said he was looking forward to a rebound in local and regional sales as businesses slowly begin to reopen and Barbados welcomes more tourists from its major source markets.
The businessman was speaking recently on the sidelines of a handing over ceremony at his St Lucy Mount Gay Distillery, where he donated a beehive and beekeeping suit to officials of an initiative geared towards educating primary school students in St Philip on the importance of honeybees.
Grisoni, expressed sadness at the impact the ash from the volcano was having on some aspects of the ecosystem including the bee population. “It is a good thing we did not take honey from our beehives.
At the same time, we are making sure that we are nourishing the beehives with sugar from time to time to make sure they are in good health,” said Grisoni, who also pointed out that the distillery and other Mount Gay operations had to pause production for over a week to clear the ash.
However, he said he was looking forward to a better yield in sugarcane production as a result of the ash.
“There is a positive aspect of the ash, which is on the agriculture side. It is true that the mineral content from the ash is a good nutrient for the vegetation and of course, we are expecting for next year better crop with better yield,” he said.
“We still need to see how it will translate into tonnes
of cane but we know, and by experience from 1979 ashes that we received we know that the 1980 crop was more generous. So nature was more generous after the ashfall, so that is a good thing,” he said.
The sugarcane yield for 2020 was approximately 90,000 tonnes, and officials are projecting yields of an estimated 107,000 tonnes, which officials say should translate into higher yields of molasses to benefit the rum industry.