BICO forced to put export plans on hold
Operators of the island’s largest ice cream manufacturing company, BICO Limited, are calling on Government to remove stumbling blocks hindering the export of dairy and other products to the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.
Executive director Edwin Thirlwell told journalists today that the 114-year-old ice cream company was still not in a position to export to the larger markets because Government had not yet carried out the necessary procedures for the island to become an accepted point of origin for dairy products.
“There is a lot of background work to do to set up the key [industries] which are fisheries, meat [and dairy]. So it is a big job and I think not one that Government can tackle at this time, the way money is. So that is an ongoing saga. We are interested because we are looking at the markets where we could seriously sell BICO. They are desperate for cherry vanilla [ice cream] in Toronto and of course having already manufactured in Canada we could sell it there. But there is work to do,” he said.
At the same time Thirlwell disclosed the company had put its plans of exporting to St Vincent on pause given the economic challenges in that country and intends to focus on expansion of its local market share.
Speaking to reporters at BICO’s Harbour Road, St Michael location this morning, Thirlwell said the company had made progress in its efforts to get into St Vincent, but decided to pull back because of unfavourable conditions there. “We had a new export customer in St Vincent. In fact, I have been there and seen the person. It is the same old story. If we think things are bad here, they are worse in other places. There is simply no money around there, and what we don’t want to do is to waste our effort at a time like this on developing export markets when they don’t even pay,” he said.
“So because we don’t have a factory now . . . we only order what we want and since export business is traditionally very low margin . . . we came to the conclusion, ‘What is the point in that then? We might as well concentrate on our home market where we are strong and when the time is right we will look again’,” added Thirlwell.
He said exporting to the bigger markets would be better for the company at this time, but added that there were a number of things that needed to be put in place to allow them to do so.
“If anything comes up we will obviously look at it. It’s the same old problem. The big market for us would be the UK where all the West Indians would love to have BICO in London, Manchester and Birmingham. We can’t get in because Barbados is not a point of origin accepted by the EU. There is nothing we can do. It is something that Government has to do,” he said.
“Our laboratories and testing facilities are not acceptable to them. The same is with Canada. We would like to sell it in Toronto and we sell it in all places where Bajans congregate. Same thing with Miami and Brooklyn, we can’t get in. Barbados is not a point of origin for dairy produce. And I don’t think Government has any money or inclination to address that issue so we will just bide our time,” he said.
Thirlwell explained that as far back as when the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) was in office, the company established in a meeting with the relevant authorities, what
The company is however about to become Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) certified by the end of this month.
Thirlwell said besides new and improved laboratories and testing facilities, the country needed more people to go around and test facilities including farms and manufacturing plants to ensure they were following certain procedures and maintaining a certain standard.