Rum producers from across the region will be meeting in Guyana for two days, starting today, in a series of meetings to discuss challenges faced by the sector in a very competitive global environment.
The meeting, organised by the industry body, The West Indies Rum & Spirits Producers Association (WIRSPA), and hosted by Demerara Distillers, is the first to be held in Guyana in over 30 years. Demerara Distillers was a founding member of the association, whose formation dates back to the 60’s and is widely regarded as one of the most proactive private sector trade associations.
INews understands that a critical issue for the industry will be the continuing negative impact of the cover-over subsidies which benefit competing brands from Puerto Rico and the USVI, in the US Market. In April this year President Granger called for CARICOM to use its diplomatic resources to work to resolve this issue. More recently, Trade Ministers meeting in Guyana in mid-November agreed to continue attempts to address the impact of the subsidies on the industry.
spite these challenges, the sector as a whole continues to be a major contributor to the regional economy, with over US$550m in annual export earnings and employing some 10,000 people across the industry which comprises all of CARICOM (including Haiti) as well as the Dominican Republic.
According to Komal Samaroo, Chairman of Demerara Distillers, the industry has transitioned from being bulk exporters to one in which branded value-added products are the focus. “Looking at the industry today, what you will see is a diverse group of large and small producers with quality brands aimed at the premium and super-premium markets, both of which are growing strongly”, Samaroo said.
The industry will also discuss pressing trade issues such as BREXIT and other market developments as well as technical issues related to quality improvements and waste treatment.
The establishment of geographical indications, as a strategy to combat increases in counterfeiting and passing off will also be discussed.
A highlight of the meeting will be the honouring of Dr. Yesu Persaud, retired Chairman of Demerara Distillers who for several decades was a senior of WIRSPA and a former Chairman of the regional grouping.