On December 2nd, Directors of the regional rum industry met virtually for one of the scheduled biannual board meetings of WIRSPA. Producers from territories as far south as Suriname and Guyana and as far north as Belize and the Dominican Republic, traditionally meet in one of the member countries, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic have pivoted to meeting online.
Representatives for Belize, Grenada and Haiti respectively were officially welcomed recently to the board of West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers’ Association (WIRSPA). Amanda Perdomo of Travellers Liquors, Kirk Seetahal of Grenada Distillers and Delphine Gardere of Rhum Barbancourt sat at their first board meeting as their countries transitioned from associate members to full membership. St. Kitts was appointed as an associate member at the same meeting.
Participating members shared a common story across domestic markets of the negative impact of COVID on the economic activity, supply chain and logistics and on tourist arrivals, with the latter beginning to see an upturn in the last six weeks. Despite variations in the respective territories, the overall picture points to another challenging year for the region and the sector.
Komal Samaroo, Chairman of WIRSPA and head of the regional conglomerate Demerara Distillers said, “this year has proved far more challenging than expected due to the continuing effect of the pandemic and the tremendous challenges faced by producers in their supply chains, with long delays in obtaining raw materials and massive increases in transport costs.” He noted, “these issues look to continue into 2022 and require producers to invest more to ensure uninterrupted supply capacity.”
Producers also took the time to recommit themselves to focusing on collaborative actions around promoting responsible drinking and working in partnership with stakeholders and particularly regional governments, on reducing excessive drinking and the physical and societal harms associated with it.
The various regional brands continue to make significant advances in this effort, including engaging the hospitality industry on the issues and the modernising of their product labels to advise on calorie content, against driving under the influence, underage drinking and drinking during pregnancy.