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by Emmanuel Joseph

donvilleinnissaddressingchamberofcommerceThe Government of Barbados has intervened in the food import duty “war” between local manufacturers and farmers and foreign restaurant franchises operating here.

Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, Donville Inniss, told Barbados TODAY this afternoon, he met this morning with the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry and representatives of Subway, Burger King and local supermarket owners to hear their concerns regarding the increase in tariff from 20 per cent to 184 per cent for imported processed meats. †Inniss said he also met yesterday with top officials of the Barbados Agricultural Society and the Barbados Manufacturers Association.

“The intention is on Friday morning, to bring all parties together at my office to discuss and see if we can find a resolution to it. We are working on it, through my ministry,” he revealed.

Just last week, Chief Executive Officer of the BAS, James Paul, warned that more than 500 Barbadian jobs in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors would be in jeopardy if the Government implemented a suggestion by Subway to reduce the food import tariff on processed meat.

Taking a common position on this matter, Paul and Executive Director of the BMA, Bobbi McKay, were responding to a call by Frederick George of Alfundi Investments Limited, which operates the two local Subway Restaurants, to allow his company to continue paying 20 per cent tariff on its importation of the meat, instead of the 184 per cent, the business was just asked to pay.

But Paul charged that the lower rate which Subway was paying was a mistake within the system, in that the higher tariff had been in place for a long time now. Paul and McKay agreed that the 184 per cent was “something” they had to fight for in order to protect local manufacturers from unfair competition by foreign investors, whose products were heavily subsidised and who got very little of their items from local sources.

However, trade sources explained this evening that the 20 per cent duty might be something that Barbados had long committed to for goods covered under the tariff head “pre-cooked meats”, but authorities were continuing their research ahead of Friday’s meeting.

Meanwhile, the BAS and BMA heads hold fast to the position that farmers, feed producers and others in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors may have to send home workers and shut down, because they would not be able to compete with foreign businesses, which were already heavily subsidised.

The BAS head announced though, that the BAS and BMA had made representation to the relevant ministries to support them in their stand to keep the 184 per cent tariff in place as a protective measure for local businesses.†He said their aim was to ensure their members were protected.

The agricultural sector’s spokesman sought to make it clear that the rationale behind the high duty was to ensure there was a level playing field for local producers against commodities made in foreign lands.†He said Barbados therefore felt it had to provide some other level of protection, which came in the form of the tariff.

The chief executive officer also rejected the statement by the Subway management official that Barbados had the highest tariffs in the region.†He urged the official to sit down with his organisation and the BMA and discuss any challenges his restaurant may have regarding the supply of local produce.

One Response to LET’S TALK

  1. Rosemary Parkinson May 16, 2013 at 7:07 am

    I so hope that the Barbados government stands up to Subway and ALL fast food outlets and does not remove what these people are calling an excess tariff. If ya feel it is necessary to tweak it a bit, fine. But to bring down to 20% – outta order!!

    Anyone coming to this island to open such businesses, as a priority, should make contact with meat processors (from chicken to pork) and bakeries and begin the process of Farm To Table i.e. give them specifications and work with them until the products are 100%. This is not a difficult task and helps not only the economy but also will elevate the quality of production (not that U.S. standards are anything to go by, mind you. Truthfully European standards should be used as when these fast food outlets go to these countries they are forced to use theirs…far better than American standards to begin with). Once contracts are in place, business is ready to rumble. One does not come to the country, set up and then start crying about tax on imports.

    And what is wrong with a twist of Bajan when it comes to breads and meats used eh? If those in the US who give out these franchises doan like it, well hello! Stay there and open ya business.
    Right now, because of health trends, these companies are suffering both in the US and Europe…so by standing up to them perhaps we can here in Barbados not only have healthier products but also tastier ones! How amazing would it be for Burger King to advertise their Burgers with an exotic Bajan Twist! Get real fast food outlets…and personally the old adage of “we have to follow US rules” just does not cut it anymore.

    There are ways to turn profits around, easy ways, our ways…from condiments to meats to greens to breads…and I really do commend Mr. Paul and Ms. McKay for their stance. Using a well-known marketing slogan “Check Barbados First!” this is what we have to do here in order to achieve Food Security and reduce our heavily laden food import bills.


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