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WIRSPA Welcomes New Members and Calls for Festival Restraint

The West Indies Rum Producers Association (WIRSPA) – the grouping of Caribbean rum producers, last week welcomed several new members into the WIRSPA ‘family’ at the Annual General Meeting.

The association, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, welcomed St. Vincent Distillers representing St. Vincent and the Grenadines as a full member, and the Bahamas Distilling Company, representing the Bahamas, as an associate member. WIRSPA members also welcomed Copal Tree Distillery of Belize, to the Belize Rum Producers Association.

Chairman Komal Samaroo stated, “Our growth in membership with Grenada, Haiti and Belize becoming full members last year, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines this year, as well as the re-entry of the Bahamas into WIRSPA, is evidence of the increasing relevance of the association to the industry in the region. Producers see a clear advantage in being part of a grouping that shares common rules, a philosophy of quality and authentic provenance, and strength in numbers.”

The producers from across the Caribbean exchanged views on domestic and international trade and market developments, and especially discussed the challenges raised by the rapidly increasing price of raw materials, energy and packaging.

CEO Vaughn Renwick said, “Major input costs including molasses and fuel have risen considerably, in some cases by more than 50%.” Further increases seem set to continue, as post-Covid demand for molasses grows, exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine and a lack of shipping containers and vessels both for inputs and exports. These issues were placing a significant resource strain on producers said Renwick, adding, “A shortage of glass bottles from regional suppliers, as well as delays in sourcing extra regional supplies are also causing major production and export challenges.”

The producers, also recognising the relaxation of covid restrictions and the return of festivals in the region, underscored the urgent need for additional messaging to consumers on reducing harmful and excessive drinking.

According to Chairman Samaroo, “We are pleased to see that virtually all rum producers have now upgraded product labels to carry our agreed advisory logos against underage drinking, drinking and driving and drinking during pregnancy.”

Many others, he added, had also implemented the use of serving size information – number of servings per bottle and calories per serving, which were required to be printed in large type to guarantee that the information is conspicuous and legible.