Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Dr. David Estwick

A restructured sugar cane industry holds great potential for the development of the local rum sector.

This is the view of Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Dr. David Estwick, who pointed out that the restructuring process could lead to improved sugar cane yields and the production of grade "A" molasses, which in turn, would have significant benefits for the growth of the Barbadian rum industry.

Dr. Estwick was speaking this morning during the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation’s (BIDC) Rum Expansion Programme groundbreaking session at the Bagnalls Point Gallery, Pelican Craft Centre, Bridgetown.

He was presenting on the topic Marrying the Ministries of Agriculture and Industry to the Benefit of Barbados’ Rum Industry.??

The focus of the session was to devise a strategy for securing a Geographic Indication or GI for Barbados’ rum. GI’s are used as marketing tools, particularly in the sale of niche products.

Dr. Estwick explained: "Based on a supply of 350,000 tonnes of canes to an upgraded Andrews facility, the potential supply of grade ???A’ molasses is 24,500 tonnes. It should be noted that not only would the rum industry benefit from a greater tonnage of molasses but also a better quality of molasses…

"The rum industry which is a significant foreign exchange earner will benefit from increased security of local molasses supply, higher quality molasses input into rum making, foreign exchange savings and the ability to boast of our rums being made from local molasses," the Agricultural Minister remarked.

Dr. Estwick also called on the rum manufacturers to examine the possibility of producing ethanol for fuel use.

"This ethanol could replace the MTBE which is currently used in gasoline as an oxygenate additive… The production of local ethanol for use in a 10 per cent gasoline fuel blend would eliminate the potential negative impact of MTBE, while saving foreign exchange for the country and diversifying the revenue stream of the rum industry, utilising skill sets and resources already present in the rum industry," he said.

In his remarks, Minister of Industry, Small Business and Rural Development, Denis Kellman, gave his full support to the BIDC’s Rum Expansion Programme, adding that Barbados must do all it could to ensure it reaped the full benefits of the rum industry.

"I have been told that 80-85 per cent of the rum produced in Barbados is sold as bulk rum; thus, the real beneficiaries of the prestigious Barbados rum are those persons who purchase our product and merely re-bottle it.?? Little value is added, if any at all, and it is my firm belief that every effort must be made to safeguard this heritage of ours.

"Therefore, now is the time for us to seize the opportunity to convert the significant throughput of our bulk rum into a branded product.?? To this end, the Rum Expansion Programme is a step in the right direction, since it provides us with the nuances that will enable us to better exploit the untapped value potential of this vital segment of our export industry," Mr. Kellman said.

In addition, the Industry Minister called for closer linkages between the local tourism, agriculture and manufacturing sectors if Barbados was to reposition itself in the global marketplace "as the home of the prestigious rum brand."

According to Mr. Kellman, the industry required the full support from stakeholders if it was to ensure compliance with international standards and norms, so as to remain competitive.??

He stressed that the rum industry could be considered one of the most successful industries in the Caribbean, and more so in Barbados, where export market sales have been one of the drivers of the economy.??

"Statistics show that on average 12.69 per cent of the local industry’s production is exported. Furthermore, the industry’s contribution to Barbados’ Gross Domestic Product, foreign exchange earnings and employment generation cannot be questioned.?? It is noteworthy that export earnings in 2010 totalled some BDS $66.8 million; a 16.7 per cent increase in earnings when compared to 2009. Laudable indeed," Mr. Kellman stated.

The Industry Minister pointed out that his long-term vision for the manufacturing sector was the development of a Barbados brand.

"…to design, create and market Barbados’ brand whether it is for our condiments, pepper sauce, jams, jellies, mauby syrup or our rum," Mr. Kellman remarked.


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