The rum industry, which is a significant non-services sector earner of foreign exchange, is intimately linked to the tourism industry and plays an important role in the sugar and manufacturing industries. Barbados exports some Bds$57 million of rum annually.
In the past when the local sugar industry was flourishing, the molasses used in local rum production was obtained from the local sugar industry. However, in more recent times, with the limited quantity of molasses available locally, the majority of the molasses used is imported , with the largest single supplier being Guyana. A major player noted that the industry would be very interested in receiving more local molasses if it became available.
Exports of rum from the Caribbean were traditionally protected by duties on imported spirits from countries like Brazil and Mexico. These duties were abolished by the European Union and the US from 2003 which meant that these large rum producers could ship to Europe and force out smaller Caribbean producers.
In 2001 the European Development Fund approved a grant of â‚¤70 million to the Caribbean Rum Industry as compensation for the early liberalization of the preferential market in Europe. This grant is being used to modernize distilleries and install efficient effluent disposal systems.
The EU selected the West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers’ Association Inc (WIRSPA) to manage the development programme . Barbados is a member of. WIRSPA which is an association of national associations of rum producers in the Caribbean founded in the late 1960s. It is based in Barbados. WIRSPA was originally set up to promote and protect the interests of members concerned with the distillation, export and marketing of rum.
One component of the EU support programme is the development of an international Rum Marque – a logo for Authentic Caribbean Rum, and the launching of marketing campaigns in Europe, targeting mainly UK, Italy and Spain. These campaigns are reportedly helping to develop Caribbean brands.
While the support programme is due to come to end shortly, the Caribbean Rum Industry is lobbying to continue to have access to the unspent funds, which are reportedly around 14 million Euros.
Locally, a variety of branded rums is available to locals and visitors alike. There are distillery tours available as well as Visitor Centres which offer demonstrations of the rum production process as well as rum related and other souvenirs.
The “rum shop” is an integral part of Barbadian life and could be promoted as part of the tourism product. Although there may be ad hoc “rum shop tours” throughout the tourist season, there is no regular tour. Perhaps BTA should promote rum shops by, among other things, putting plaques on those locations that meet acceptable standards of sanitary conditions i.e. clean kitchen and clean toilets. British tourists love them.