Rum maker: Level field
An official of Foursquare Distillery, the multimillion-dollar rum manufacturing plant, is pleading with Government for a level playing field and an ease in excise taxes.
Richard Seale, executive chairman of R.L. Seale & Co. Ltd, owners of the St Philip-based facility, made that call Monday when Minister of Industry Denis Kellman and officials of the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association (BMA) toured the complex.
Richard, the son of chairman Sir David Seale, said rum was one of the key industries in Barbados and deserved better.
“All we need from Government is a level playing field and there are at least two areas that they can assist. Right now, the Government collects excise tax on rum, beer [and] fuel oil and value added tax (VAT) from every business in Barbados but only rum is subject to very onerous procedures and controls that are outdated.
“What we want the Government to do is put us in line with everyone else. There is no reason why there should be any extra controls and burden of cost of rum versus beer or fuel oil. It is absurd,” he said.
Seale said Government missed an opportunity in 1997 when it introduced VAT.
“When they brought in VAT, the VAT on a case of beer was actually higher than the excise tax and they could have at that time abolished excise tax on rum. It would have saved the industry a tremendous amount of burden and prevented the waste of time on Customs.”
He said the rum industry, like the rest of the country, was feeling the weight of Barbados Light &?Power’s constant price hikes. According to him, energy costs were much too high.
“So you are asking us as a rum industry to compete but we have to pay a price for energy that is simply set to give a foreign shareholder a return. Government should have an industrial policy that sets an international benchwork for the supply of energy to export-earning industries and that way, we will have a level playing field to compete,” he said.
Seale said the factory produces 200 000 cases of rum in various sizes and for the first time had broken into the Russian market.
“I have just returned from Moscow and that was very exciting for us because 20 years ago no one would have believed that Barbados’ rums would ever be in the bars of Moscow. That was a surreal experience to see that,” he added.