Regional rum producers and their representative association, WIRSPA, have been lauded by the Trinidad Minister of Trade and Industry for their efforts to improve the global competitiveness of Authentic Caribbean Rums. The Minister was speaking at the opening of a technical workshop of quality officials from 14 rum producers across the region which met in Trinidad from the 12-15th September.
Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon said “the development and marketing of the Authentic Caribbean Rum Marque in Europe, North America and Canada is one of several initiatives which will cement a place for Caribbean Rum among premium alcoholic beverages worldwide”.
This view was echoed by Chairman of Angostura, Dr. Rolph Balgobin who said that the Authentic Caribbean Rum Marque program had provided a vision of where to take the Caribbean Rum industry, and confirmed Angostura’s support for it.
Confirming the contribution of the rum sector as the major agro-based export sector in the Caribbean and a substantial earner of foreign exchange and tax revenue as well as a large employer, she commended WIRSPA’s engagement with stakeholders on the issue of subsidies provided through the US Cover Over tax remittances and pledged to play her part in any discussions on how to take this issue forward to resolution.
Organised by the West Indies Rum & Spirits Producers Association (WIRSPA) and facilitated by Angostura, the workshop was held at the Angostura distillery. Companies from Antigua, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia and Suriname participated in the workshop.
“We’re happy to lend a helping hand”, said Robert Wong, CEO of Angostura, “it’s what distinguishes WIRSPA and the rum sector, we really work closely together on improving quality and introducing best practice, we’re a bit of a family that way”. He added “we have invested heavily in quality for years and it’s great to share our experiences with the rest of the group”.
“Learning from each other is a core element of our knowledge sharing activity, as is the transferring of skills from our larger to our smaller less capable producers” said Dr. Frank Ward, chairman of WIRSPA, “and we’re grateful to CARIFORUM governments and to the European Union for providing support to make these initiatives possible.”
“It’s especially important for us as exporters of premium rums to stay ahead of the curve on quality, responding both to increasing regulation as well as demands from our customers”. Even more critically, he noted, “we’re competing in an uneven environment where some competitors are able to produce rums at heavily subsidised rates and sell this rum into the market, thus placing us at a serious disadvantage. The use of the US Cover Over remittances for this purpose is seriously impacting our competitiveness in the US market and affecting the profitability of the entire sector.”
“Rum is the region’s premier agro-based export and is a significant export earner and employer”, said Ward, “our governments are well aware of this contribution to the regional economy and that is why they are keen to see a resolution of this issue that is fair to all,” adding that he hoped to see the matter on the agenda of regional trade ministers when they meet later in the year.