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 ₤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.

About the Author

Dr. Frances Chandler
Dr. Frances Chandler - Director, Horticultural Business Solutions Inc.

Dr. Chandler Consultant Agronomist, Director Horticultural Business Solutions Inc. has worked at the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute where she was Head of the Barbados Unit from 1991 to 1994. Her major accomplishment here was the development of an onion industry in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.As a Board member of the Barbados Marketing Corporation in the 1980s she co-ordinated the production , packing and shipping of sweet peppers exported to Holland.Dr Chandler established her own company "Horticultural Business Solutions Inc. in 1997 with a view to upgrading the operations of Caribbean private sector companies involved in food production and marketing.Recognising the importance of succession planning in the agricultural industry, Dr Chandler has supervised a School Garden Competition for Super Centre, and at the Governor General's request, has co-ordinated the Governor General's Agricultural Summer Camp for primary school children for the last five years.In 2006 she was appointed as a member of the local Selection Committee for the Anthony N Sabga Caribbean Awards for Excellence and this year was appointed to the local Selection Committee for the United World College Scholarships.In 2007 Dr Chandler held the post of Vice President of the Barbados Society of Technologists in Agriculture, and in 2008, President.Dr Chandler is part of the Exhibits Committee for Agrofest and the Chief Judge of the Fruit and Vegetable Exhibit.She has authored/co-authored over 50 publications in addition to being the author of the Agro-Doc column which has appeared in the Nation newspaper for the last four years.In 2003 Dr Chandler was appointed by the Governor General as an Independent Senator in the Upper Chamber of the Parliament of Barbados and was reappointed in 2008.