Caribbean rum industry leaders who recently met in Jamaica paid tribute to two retiring icons of the Jamaica rum industry: R. Evon Brown, former head of National Rums of Jamaica, and Lloyd Forbes, former head of the Jamaica Spirits Pool; between them they’ve dedicated over 110 years to the rum industry.
As former directors and chairmen of the Jamaica rum industry, as well as the regional industry grouping WIRSPA, they actively engaged with regional industry leaders to drive market entry of Caribbean rum into the US, Canadian and European markets. Their contributions to market access negotiations for rum within the CBI, Lomé and CaribCan arrangements paved the way for expanding the industry and building strong regional brands.
In addition, Brown was highly involved in bringing US$80 million in grant funding to the industry between 2002 – 2010, which saw investments in equipment upgrades, better environmental management, and a marketing program for Caribbean rum in the US, Canada and Europe. Jamaica distilleries received $10 million in grants as part of this modernisation program.
As head of the Jamaica Spirits Pool, and former head of several distilleries, Forbes chaired WIRSPA’s technical committee for many years, providing invaluable expert support to modernisation efforts, particularly among smaller regional producers.
In recognising the tremendous contribution made by these two stalwarts, the new head of the Jamaica Spirits Pool and Jamaica Rum & Spirits Trade Association, Clement ‘Jimmy’ Lawrence, Chairman of J. Wray & Nephew, said, “Much is owed to these two trailblazers for Jamaica rum. Under their stewardship, regional and Jamaican producers have benefitted both materially and by additional market access in our most important markets. This is an achievement of great significance to the entire region.” He added, “As the new representative for Jamaica in the regional WIRSPA grouping, I will do my utmost best to ensure that this tradition of collaboration is strengthened towards building an internationally competitive industry.”
Presenting tokens of appreciation to the two gentlemen, WIRSPA Chairman, Komal Samaroo, head of the Guyana conglomerate Demerara Distillers said, “The examples of Brown and Forbes epitomises the spirit of cooperation that has been the hallmark of the regional industry and underpinned its success.” Noting that the industry faces many domestic and international challenges, he said “It behooves us to continue to strengthen our cooperation and face these challenges united, even while we may not always agree on everything”.
Industry leaders, members of WIRSPA (West Indies Rum & Spirits Producers Association) were in Jamaica for their bi-annual meeting addressing a range of regional and international trade issues. Among them, WTO issues and Brexit, as well as rum standards and regulations.
According to Samaroo, a substantial portion of the meeting was devoted to the industry’s support of Caribbean governments efforts to reduce the harmful use of alcohol and promoting responsible drinking. In addition to this year’s ground-breaking commitments by producers to improve regulation and labelling, the industry has made a highly supportive contribution to CARICOM’s initiative to establish a regional working group to develop strategies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol. “This is a serious issue for our governments, consumers, and ourselves as producers” he said. “We will make it a core focus of our grouping”.