No drain

Imported coconut water not affecting dwindling reserves, says Thirlwell

Local ice cream maker BICO is defending the importation of 900 cases of coconut water from Guyana, saying not only is there a shortage of high quality coconut water on the island, but that not everyone was satisfied with the hygiene practices of local roadside vendors.

Asked by Barbados TODAY Tuesday afternoon to confirm reports that his company was responsible for bringing in the popular thirst quencher, all that the company’s executive chairman Edwin Thirlwell would initially say was, “we are interested in coconut water because there is a shortage of high quality coconut water, but I cannot confirm anything other than that”.

However, when pressed on the issue, the BICO top official later said his company had no intention of second guessing its own move, because, “I think there is a need for it”.

He also said BICO’s interest in coconut water was nothing new, adding that there was a definite demand for high quality coconut water on the island.

“There are issues already with the health department over the hygiene practices of the roadside coconut vendors,” Thirlwell noted, adding that “there is a concern there, just the same as there is at Crop Over where people prepare the chicken and leave it out there in the warmers. There are food safety issues in there.”

The businessman therefore said that the decision to import coconut water was in response to local demand.

He explained that while “there are people who wouldn’t dream of buying coconut water anywhere but from the man by the road”, there were others “who wouldn’t drink that if you paid them, because they say, ‘I just saw what he just did before he cut that coconut. I am not drinking that’.

“So you always have a diverse view and you have to cater for that,” Thirlwell said.

“We don’t live in a totalitarian society yet where everyone makes their mind up. You can’t force people to buy anything. You put it out. If they like it, buy like it. If they don’t like it, they don’t buy it,” he added.

In the same vein, the BICO boss defended his company’s practice of bringing in frozen dough and other imported items.

“We have been doing that for years. The local bakeries do not want to make the quality of dough products that we need for the hospitality sector, so there are things that people want and we just have to cater for their needs,” he told Barbados TODAY, while suggesting that “a lot of local manufacturers can’t be bothered”.

“We have tried every bread manufacturer we can think of to ask them, ‘Will you make this for us because we can sell it and people need it frozen because if you have a bank holiday Monday and it rains nobody comes what do you do with the bread you bought? It wastes. If it is frozen you get it out, put it in the oven, when people turn up. So there is a need for catering to all kinds of things.”

He said it was the same principle applied to the ice cream business.

“People bring in ice cream. It is not necessary, because we have got ice cream made in the region. So why would you bring in ice-cream from all over the place?” he asked, adding that it was “because there might be some people who want it and they have a right to do that”.

It was James Paul, chief executive officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society who turned the media’s spotlight on the issue of imports yesterday, accusing those responsible for bringing in the coconut water from neighbouring Guyana of “undermining the dwindling foreign exchange reserves as well as sabotaging employment within a viable sector.

“I understand that they [cases of coconut water] are here but they are not on the shelves as yet and I am hoping that they do not go on the shelves,” the BAS boss said, while making a personal appeal to Barbadians to boycott the imported food item.

However, while refusing to be drawn into any public debate with the head of the local farming community, Thirlwell took issue with at least one media report which emanated from Paul’s news conference, saying it was “a sensational piece done without much thought” and “I wouldn’t give much credence to it”.

The BICO boss however sought to make it clear that “if we brought in coconut water, we bring it in from CARICOM and it would be paid in Barbados dollars.

“So that is the first untruth,” Thirlwell said.

And in a further jab at the press report, he said, “Unfortunately there is no news around, so people resort to making a bit up.”

22 Responses to No drain

  1. Hal Austin February 8, 2017 at 3:07 am

    This is typical of the failure of Barbadian entrepreneurialism. It is the equivalent of importing tamarinds from Thailand.
    All BICO has to do is install the canning equipment, buy the coconuts wholesale and market the tinned product.
    We know the coconuts are available because the street vendors seem to get them without any obstructions; we know that some property owners who would make their coconuts available if there was a better organised market; and we know locals and visitors will buy the tinned coconut water if it were available.
    This example of business failure can be applied to any number of products and services in Barbados. That is one reason why the Trinidadians are taking us to the cleaners.


  2. Alana B February 8, 2017 at 7:10 am

    @ Hal Austin. This is one time I agree with you fully. As I said yesterday Trinidad products on the shelves in large quantities in Barbados but on the island of Trinidad one can seldom see Bajan products.

    I will continue to buy local coconut water, straight from the vendors of Barbados.

    Buy Local!!

  3. Priscilla Millar February 8, 2017 at 7:28 am

    So the Guys need sanitised their coconuts before cutting them??

  4. Priscilla Millar February 8, 2017 at 7:32 am


  5. Harry February 8, 2017 at 7:36 am

    With you 100% Hal. This dubious man – himself an import – should concentrate on producing BICO ice cream Locally as was done previous to his gaining control of BICO . Rather he now goes to places like Cuba and Suriname yes folks Suriname if you doubt me check a tub of BICO ice cream and confirm for yourself to have BICO made under license.

    Under his ownership BICO once a proud local manufacturer of high quality ice cream is reduced to an import company. I doubt that the Company was turned a profit in the last 15 years.

  6. kathy-Ann Clarke February 8, 2017 at 7:51 am

    But, I am puzzled, how do Mr. Thirwell knows how the water from Guyana is dealt with before it gets bottled?

    I am one who do not buy Coconut water from the supermarket, I always get mine from the vendors on the streets,
    And coconut water has a short shelf life.

  7. Coconut Water Lover February 8, 2017 at 8:05 am

    Yes they need to sanitize the coconuts before cutting them! They also need to place them on racks rather than on the ground and they need to present themselves as persons working with food. We have to stop accepting substandard practices.sometimes the coconuts have been hanging around for days before they are cut and when you think you are getting fresh coconuts the thing goes off within hours! Speaking after having a number of bad experiences which have caused me to buy only from the supermarkets

  8. Petyer February 8, 2017 at 8:22 am

    First of all this report by Marlon Madden Is very long and repetitive. Everything he wrote could have been written in three paragraphs the most. Now to the meat of the matter. Get this straight Harry. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING here was done by Mr. Edwin Thirwil’s company BICO. FACT. I have seen local coconut vendors urinating off the Highway and returning to ply their trade. That is downright DIRTY and UNHEALTHY! One vendor confessed that he makes over $ 3,000.00 daily. band does NOT pay tax. Now you multiply that by 30 and work out how much he makes per month. Not paying rent nor need to have a permit, Causes the endangerment of lives, and leaves the shells on the road. especially at night without lighting. Trinidad vendors ship in about 6 forty foot size containers of freshly cut coconuts from Guyana EVERY week at US$ 0.25 cents per whole coconut. They cut, bottle and sell there. Why can’t the local vendors get together and do something through BAMP? and hey, wait. that coconut water and jelly is the sweetest. In Asia, and those places it is a huge industry. Monkeys are trained to climb the trees, select and pick the nuts. Do some research Barbados Today…..

  9. Bill February 8, 2017 at 8:23 am

    We need to be concern about the hygienic practices of those who sell coconuts! All coconuts regardless of whether they are bottled overseas, by the guys on the streets or by the businesses which supply the supermarkets should be sanitized and those handling them should be held to the same standard as other food handlers

  10. Richard Johnston February 8, 2017 at 9:00 am

    Why make anything locally when it’s cheaper to import it?

    • Peter February 8, 2017 at 9:19 am

      Great idea Richard, but energy and labour costs followed by taxes ooooh. It may not be worth the stress.

  11. Peter February 8, 2017 at 9:16 am

    So Marlon, You removed my comment. That’s OK It was sent to thousands both locally and overseas. Look a little further outside the box. I’m sure Edwin Thirwell is looking at ity too as I know him well. There are several coconut bi-products. All very exportable and needed as therte is an international market. There is coconut butter used in pastries and make-up and lotions, there is coconut milk again canned and used in cooking and baking. Hard coconut jelly grated and used in sugar cakes and breaded coconut shrimp. there is coconut essence. and of course the actual coconut itself that are the heads of lots of politicians I.e. – Trump and Stuart and Commissiong among others…..Go ahead Marlon wipe this out too. it is sent on I/m sure Peter Harris knows this. Ms. Jordan, You should be a call in talk show host. you’re smart, intelligent, well informed and has a wonderful voice which complements your personality.

  12. Peter February 8, 2017 at 9:20 am

    Hey , they put it back. Thanks Marlon. Hal .. What do you think?

  13. Gearbox1964 February 8, 2017 at 9:27 am

    Exactly Kathy-Ann…those are my thoughts as well. And as others alluded to, there is no reason why Bico can’t source coconuts directly from the owners of trees here in Barbados and handle the whole process themselves.
    Maybe the gov’t needs to ban importation of things that are readily available here, or tax such imports so high that it doesn’t make business sense to go that route. On the other side of the coin, the costs of local items need to reasonable.

  14. Charmaine February 8, 2017 at 10:27 am

    What worries me about importing a commodity like Coconut water is it will always be cheaper from an outside source, Guyana or wherever has acres and acres and we have our limits due to our size. But buying Local, this and every product , has major benefits for us, it keeps our citizens employed and that again, must be our major reason for buying local. However, are we re planting or increasing the numbers of trees? If every coconut vendor (or citizen) plants 1 tree every month or two. That would be great for our future. The market is growing and will eventually have to be filled and may be by imports but not just yet…..

  15. Watchman February 8, 2017 at 11:03 am

    So any coconut plantations for sale in Guyana, how much ?
    Let me see what I can find, maybe I will buy 2 when I get paid next month.

  16. Bill February 8, 2017 at 11:47 am

    There is a demand for coconut water at the supermarkets if you go any day other than Wednesday to Massey Warrenso you are unlikely to be able to purchase any and there are many selling the product on the roadside across from the car park

  17. Hal Austin February 8, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    You are right. Coconuts have a lots of bi-products which we could exploit, from coconut oil, which is very expensive in the health food shops, to soaps and other products.
    I remember we had a big coconut operation in Gill’s Road back in the 1960s; whatever happened to that?
    But coconuts are not the only products; one of the most relatively costly products in British supermarkets are limes (30p each), which are often allowed to grow on trees and rot locally; Latin American banana are available in the shops and Windward Islands’ products are nowhere to be seen.
    We have had a marketing board since the 1960s, what does it do?

  18. Peter February 8, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    Hal , are you serious? I have about 10 lime trees which bear abundantly. I do not sell, I get my gardeners to gather the fallen ones. I distribute to my neighbours, I give to a few restaurants and bars that I visit, and I give sole to my favourite Pudding and Souse and Fish vendor. None is sold. Coconut shells can be crafted, sanded and either painted or polished to produce craft products like lizards, spiders, crabs, butterflies, broaches, Initials or names, plus many, many more one just need to be creative and good with their hands. I know a guy who fashioned a shell into a cup. WI Biscuit Co. can if they don’t, Make coconut flavoured cookies some with rum added like rum cake. Hmm. There’s an idea for Mr. Padmore and his team. Sometimes I wish Carmeta Frasier was still around.

  19. Hal Austin February 8, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    Drop me a note and I will get someone to make contact about importing your limes. In my youth we used to put the coconut fibre in mattresses.

  20. Peter February 8, 2017 at 6:03 pm

    Thanks and respect Hal but I really enjoy giving away the limes I collected to those folks in need. They look forward to getting them.The Min. of Agriculture can export.

  21. jus me February 8, 2017 at 9:37 pm

    but as yet I never seen any imports that got paid for DIRECTLY in Barbados $.
    All required to be paid for in another currency.


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