CARIBBEAN Rum Producers have taken on a special role in many countries, as the supplier of alcohol for sanitation purposes. “Our member producers are reaching out to health ministries and other government agencies to support their alcohol requirements for sanitation and related needs as the region battles the coronavirus, COVID-19. We are diverting production to alcohol as necessary and are doing what we can in this time of crisis,” stated Vaughn Renwick, CEO of the West Indies Rum & Spirits Producers Association (WIRSPA).
In addition, Caribbean rum producers are gearing up to address the unprecedented and severe health and economic challenges posed by the spread of COVID-19 internationally, as well as in their domestic markets. As a major employer and an important economic sector, heavily dependent on the hospitality industry, the rum industry is particularly concerned about the recent spread of the virus in Caribbean countries and its impact on the health of citizens and the regional economy.
Speaking on behalf of the regional grouping, WIRSPA Chairman Komal Samaroo, expressed his considerable concern at developments: “Our first and primary concern is of course the health and safety of our staff and their families. As a result, we’re providing all the support we can to help them understand how to protect themselves and their communities in this time, and in many cases providing them with materials to help them do so.”
According to Samaroo, “as major suppliers of spirits and other products into the hotel and restaurant sector, we’re naturally aware of the extreme pressure that has been placed on these enterprises and we will be working with these trade customers to assist them as far as possible at this difficult time. As an industry which is heavily dependent on export markets, we are also beginning to see the impact of economic contraction, and over the next weeks, will be assessing how we manage what could eventually be an existential threat to our businesses.”
CEO, Vaughn Renwick added that the industry is also closely monitoring its supply chain integrity as more and more countries experience the virus and the manufacturing sector comes under pressure. “As individual companies, we have been looking at this challenge for some time now, especially as it applies to raw materials and packaging, as it is critical to ensuring our continued production and business continuity.”
“As many persons are aware,” Renwick continued, “many of our distilleries are important visitor attractions. Where local advice allows and staff safety can be guaranteed, these will remain open, although with smaller visitor groups. In other cases, we may face temporary closure of our visitor facilities and persons wishing to visit should always check ahead.”