Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Dr. David Estwick (centre, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, NULL, NULL, 0); on tour of the molasses facilities with Chairman of the Barbados Rum Committee, Dr. Frank Ward (left) and Managing Director??of Preconco, Mark Maloney (A. Skeete/BGIS)

Rum industry officials have painted a very dim picture for the future of the local and regional sector unless there is urgent intervention by regional governments.

And, it is a matter which has engaged the attention of Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Dr. David Estwick, who said Barbados, through CARICOM, may have to take its case to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to have this critical issue resolved.

Speaking during a press briefing yesterday at the site of construction for the new molasses storage tanks at the Bridgetown Port, Chairman of the Barbados Rum Committee, Dr. Frank Ward, noted that the United States was providing subsidies to its territories for their rum industry which was significantly impacting the survival of the local and Caribbean sectors.

"We are paying on average US $200 a tonne for molasses. The territories in question, with the subsidies being given to their industry, pay on average about US $20 a tonne. We will find that extremely difficult to compete with and it is a challenge at this point in time.

"We are appealing, not just for the Barbados rum industry but the CARIFORUM rum industry in general [for] our governments take this issue very, very seriously and seek to have dialogue with the United Sates government, with a view to resolving what we feel is an iniquitous and pernicious use of subsidies for multinational spirit companies and their rum production. If this is not done within a short space of time, you may well see not just the demise of the industry in Barbados, but throughout the Caribbean," Mr. Ward lamented.

Describing the scenario as "distressing", Dr. Estwick said he would seek to have dialogue with the Private Sector Trade Team as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade to evaluate the rules which relate to subsidies and determine the next step in this process.

"You start with negotiations first and see if we can get the United States to the table… and if not, we may have to, at the CARICOM level, file a case in the WTO against the United States. Antigua has had to do it already and other countries. So, if it comes down to that, then that is what we have to do," Dr. Estwick stressed.


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