Rum producers fear results of French election

Barbadian rum producers are keeping a close eye on the French presidential run-off election scheduled for May 7, fearing the results could hurt the local industry.

The political novice and centrist Emmanuel Macron of En Marche! and Marine Le Pen of the far right National Front will go head-to-head in the final race for the French presidency.

Macron, a pro-European centrist, topped the first round of voting on Sunday with 24.01 per cent of the votes – much to the relief of pro-Europeans across the continent – while the anti-immigrant, anti-Europe Le Pen placed second with 21.30 per cent, according to final results released yesterday by the French interior ministry.

Le Pen has threatened Frexit – a common name for a hypothetical French withdrawal from the European Union – following the example of Britain, which last month formally advised the EU that it would leave the union in 2019.

Many observers believe the EU, which has an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Caribbean Community countries, would not survive a French withdrawal.

And outgoing chairman of the West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers Association (WIRSPA) Dr Frank Ward said a Le Pen win could have a damning effect on the rum industry.

“If there are any changes in Government in some of our major markets, that may also have an impact. The idea that France may pull out of the EU that could have a significant impact upon us . . . .

“So if the outcome of the French elections is such that it engenders a more protectionist outlook, that would not bode well for us as an export-oriented industry because then there may be barriers put up to us being able to trade. I’m not saying that it’s going to happen but we always have to be thinking of various possibilities which will negatively impact upon us,” Ward told Barbados TODAY.

Barbados earned $89.9 million from rum exports to Europe between 2012 to 2016, according to Minister of International Business Donville Inniss at a WIRSPA reception last night at Accra Beach Hotel, at which the minister also said the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom last June posed a potential threat to the rum sector, and would have implications for Barbados and the region, particularly in the EPA provisions for trade and development.

Inniss also pointed to challenges facing the rum industry “under the guise of technical barriers to trade, coupled with non-compliance and technical regulations which have been instituted by players in the extra-regional markets”.

He made specific reference to heavily subsidized spirits produced in Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands through the rum Cover-Over grant, the annual payments from the US government to the two territories out of federal excise taxes on the product.

This financial injection, Inniss said, has adversely affected the sustainability of the region’s rum industry in key export markets of some US territories.

“Additionally, the ease in accessing key inputs, that is molasses, to be used in the rum producing process has brought to the fore the risk that could jeopardize the sustainability of the industry if the supplies of the main rum ingredient is inadequate and if the appropriate formula for the production of molasses is not determined to guarantee adequate stock for the future,” he said.

Nonetheless, Inniss hailed the rum industry as one of the main drivers of the economy, and one of the few sectors that can boast a strong trade surplus in the midst of the current economic decline.

He told the reception, held during WIRSPA’s meeting here this week, that rum remained “an important prop in the economy”, and its strong performance has been due mainly to increased exports of high quality rums.

“Additionally it is known that the industry provides valuable foreign exchange and revenue for Government’s coffers, supports the sustainability and linkages of many other businesses with the agro-processing and tourism industries, and contributes significantly to job creation among other things,” Inniss stated.

He added that Government had launched a project to expand the local rum industry, with the objective of transitioning the output of bulk rum to branded rum, and forming strategic partnerships to expand the market share of local brands in the hospitality sector.

“Right here in Barbados we have the history, the heritage, a legacy, global awards and accolades, rum connoisseurs of sorts. What is left for us to do is to establish the value of rum as an integral part of Barbados’ heritage through branding and implementing the requisite marketing strategies for Barbados rum,” he said. 

9 Responses to Rum producers fear results of French election

  1. jrsmith April 26, 2017 at 5:24 am

    This is the real problem with black countries like barbados , issues playing out in far away places is giving people in barbados , massive head aches and thats the story of our lives……… which the people allow the politicians to have brought us to this juncture………..( we the people have no control of our lives )…..

    Reply
  2. Rum Questions. April 26, 2017 at 6:26 am

    If the Barbados rum industry uses molasses from the local sugar industry, that is kept alive year after year by huge government subsidies, does this not in turn mean that the local rum industry benefits from subsidy as well?
    Does the rum industry pay the real cost of producing the molasses or the subsidies cost??

    Reply
  3. ACST April 26, 2017 at 7:13 am

    A lot of hard work is necessary. Marketing and talking to the manufactures of Rum, this is why our heritage and its sites are very important to Barbados for future growth.

    Reply
  4. Sue April 26, 2017 at 9:00 am

    As a yearly visitor, I wonder if you don’t have problems much closer to your own back yard. First, all the Super Centres are now Massey stores( T & T) and on our last 2 visits the prominent displays of rum were not Bajan brands but T & T brands. Watch out Bim.

    Reply
  5. Kenneth McGill April 26, 2017 at 11:46 am

    Is not Mount Gay French owned? Or will that change?

    Reply
  6. Nathaniel Samuels April 26, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    JR, you seem to be living in a rum cocoon. Guess you can live without any input from any other country. Good luck to you.

    Reply
  7. jrsmith April 26, 2017 at 2:38 pm

    @, Nathaniel S, hail, hail, input from another country, thats what you call it, look back at the sugar industry in barbados which meant so much to black bajans, decades ago, who owns what left of the sugar industry and our bajan heritage the rum is own by the french who is not really rum drinkers…….thats why barbados is there for the taking but not by bajans ,…
    @, Sue ,hail, hail, good shot, barbados would be titled ( T&T B) ..

    Reply
  8. jennifer April 26, 2017 at 6:32 pm

    All of this detraction on french is bare willful blindness.
    Our economic markets are between trinis; and whites, weather French, irish, Polish, American etc all this is just names for same people. BLACKS OUT BY DEFAULT. IMAGINE 95% black too.

    Reply
  9. Milli Watt April 26, 2017 at 8:30 pm

    sstttuuuppppssseeee………man find something to be concerned about like keeping the cane so you can get the molasses to make the rum and claim 100% Barbadian you think the French would get the grapes from the Caribbean. you people really know how to get paid for doing nothing. 6 billion plus people in the world and this is an issue

    Reply

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