Interim agreement

Minister Donville Inniss chairing today’s talks
Minister Donville Inniss chairing today’s talks

An interim agreement has been reached in the processed meat import duty dispute involving foreign fast food operators, the distributive sector, farmers and manufacturers in Barbados.

Following the intervention of Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, Donville Inniss, all parties were brought together today at his Reef Road, St. Michael office, where it was agreed, to put on hold, Cabinet’s proposed increase in the tariff on imported processed meat from 20 per cent to 184 per cent, and to retain the lower duty pending further investigations over the next three months.

The Barbados Manufacturers Association and the Barbados Agricultural Society had been objecting to recommendations by Frederick George, Director of Alfundi Investments — franchise owners of the two local Subway Restaurants — for Government not to increase the import tariff.

The BMA and BAS had expressed fears that more than 500 employees in both sectors would lose their jobs, if the Government adhered to Subway’s recommendation, while that foreign restaurant had claimed it would have to shut down and send home 30 workers, if the business had to pay the 184 per cent tax.

Stating that this matter was bigger than Subway and the other foreign franchise, Burger King, Inniss, told a news briefing this afternoon that all the parties had arrived at a temporary solution, which could also serve as a permanent mechanism to more effectively address similar challenges in future. †”As a result of the discussions held, all parties have agreed to the following: that there be established a committee to thoroughly analyse the issues that beset us, including historical data, trade agreements and cost implications,” he said.

“This committee will be chaired by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Trade, Bentley Gibbs, and will include Permanent Secretaries in the Ministry of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development as well as representatives from BAS, BCCI (Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry) and BMA.”

He disclosed that the stakeholders also agreed “that those enterprises engaged in the fast food business and the distributive sectors, present all necessary information to manufacturers, so that they (manufacturers) may confirm their ability to produce items (under the tariff 1602-30) at the quality and quantity requested by the said enterprises”.

“The committee shall report to the Cabinet via my ministry on all pertinent matters in no less than three months (and make recommendations on the way forward),” Inniss reported.

He explained that during the three month moratorium of the tariff, importers and the two foreign fast food outlets, have committed themselves not to bring in any produce in excess of the present average which obtained.

In addition, Inniss, gave the assurance that his ministry, which is responsible for issuing import licences, would monitor the situation.

“The Government is very committed to the development of the poultry industry and its related enterprises, whilst at the same time, recognising and supporting the establishment and operations of businesses in the distributive sectors, as well as those who are operators of franchised commercial ventures in Barbados,” he advised.

He said he was satisfied there was a commitment on the part of all involved to act with a sense of urgency, to further discuss all issues and to find the best possible solution.

“Once such is done, please be assured that the Government will act with equal urgency to bring closure to this matter,” declared Inniss.

Today’s meeting with the minister was attended by top representatives of Subway, Burger King, the BMA, BAS, Chamber of Commerce, the distributive sector and supermarkets. (EJ)

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