T&T's bajan 'blockade'
Give Trinidad and Tobago a dose of its own medicine if it continues to block Barbadian imports.
In an uncharacteristic display of frustration with the island's biggest Caricom trade partner, managing director and chief executive officer of Banks Holdings Ltd (BHL) Richard Cozier has charged that all the milk products and some juices produced by subsidiary company Pine Hill Dairy (PHD) were being deliberately blocked from entering the Trinidad market by its food and drug agency.
Cozier, who heads one of the island's largest conglomerates, said he was at the end of his tether with the Trinidadian stone-walling and had called on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade to come to the company's aid.
"As true Barbadians we take our time and build our case; we look for diplomacy as a means of discussion and negotiations. But how long should this go on before you need to take a definitive stand to say enough is enough," a disappointed Cozier told the media at a press conference at PHD's The Pine, St Michael, Barbados office last Thursday.
In the case of PHD's fresh, flavoured and evaporated milks, Cozier said he was convinced the barriers were designed to protect Nestle operations in Trinidad where it is the dominant player, producing products mainly from powdered milk.
The BHL boss said the matter started in 2010 with juice products when PHD started selling its Caribbean Pride "not from concentrate" juices sourced from its Belize subsidiary that owned substantial orchards.
While labelling adjustments were made to some juices that the Trinidadians insisted on, Cozier said PHD had not been able to sell a drop of milk to Trinidad in the past 18 months and it had nothing to do with product quality.
Furthermore, Cozier said the conglomerate was not prepared to incur the costs of relabelling all its milk to meet standards that Trinidad's authorities were only imposing on Bajan products.
"We have been trying to work with our (people) in Trinidad to see what can be done. We wanted to know whether they would give us a window of opportunity to use out the packaging that we had and then come with the new packaging.
"It seems that nothing was forthcoming in that arena and so we are where we are today – writing to our ministry again saying that we see these as discriminatory non-tariff barriers put in place aimed only at us," Cozier said.
Stressing that if PHD could only secure about ten per cent of Trinidad's milk market it would translate to about $60 million business for the company, Cozier said BHL would not drop the matter.
Having discussed the issue with Trinidadian Government officials and those in Barbados, Cozier said it was time to take off the kid gloves and hit the Trinidadians where it hurt, if that was what it took to get the Trinidadians to take Barbados seriously.
He suggested that ignoring Trinidadian products on supermarket shelves was an option Barbadians could adopt if there was no resolution to the matter.
He likened the situation to that faced by former airline REDjet in its attempt to get an air licence from the Trinidadian authorities.
"Every Barbadian would expect that their government would take strong action where strong action is required." –Barbados Nation