The Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) has weighed in on the controversy arising out of the refusal by the authorities in Trinidad and Tobago to allow a consignment of the Rooster brand of coconut water bottled in Guyana to be sold in the twin-island Republic on the grounds that it does not satisfy the safety and health standards of that country.
In a statement issued a week after this newspaper had reported on the controversy, the GMSA says that having regard to the efforts being made locally to broaden the country’s market base both regionally and extra-regionally, the Government of Guyana must apply itself to engaging itself with the authorities in the sister CARICOM country to ensure a satisfactory conclusion of the matter.
“The GMSA wishes to express its support to Roosters Products who have been exporting coconut water to Trinidad and Tobago. The GMSA is also calling on government to formally take this matter up at the bilateral level and also through the mechanism of the CARICOM Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED),” the statement said.
Last week, this newspaper had confirmed that apart from having been issued with a Free Sale Certificate for export to Massy Distribution in Port of Spain by the Government Analyst-Food and Drug Department (GAFDD), samples of the coconut water had also been cleared by the Scientific Research Council of Jamaica. though this newspaper understands that the results of tests done by the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CIRI) and laboratory testing facilities at the University of the West Indies differ from those of the GAFDD and the Jamaican authorities.
Yesterday, Director of the GAFDD, Marlan Cole, whose agency tested and approved the consignment of coconut water for export to Trinidad and Tobago reaffirmed that the agency had engaged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the matter and that their understanding was that the matter would be addressed at a government to government level. “There is really nothing more that we wish to add to what we have already said on the matter,” Cole told Stabroek Business during a telephone conversation on Tuesday.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the GMSA’s urging that the coconut water controversy be taken up both bilaterally with the Trinidad and Tobago government and at the level of COTED comes against the backdrop of increasing debate at both business and consumer levels in Guyana regarding the dichotomy between the generous open ports policy that allows for a broad range of consumer goods manufactured in Trinidad and Tobago to enter Guyana and what is widely believed to be a protectionist policy in Port of Spain that seeks to place restrictions on imports from other countries in the region, including Guyana. The GMSA’s statement says that the local Business Support Organization (BSO) “remains concerned over the continued frustration being experienced by local manufacturers accessing regional markets at a time when Guyana’s market continues to be accessible to products and services from the region. It therefore brings into question the issue of reciprocity of trade,” the statement added.
“The Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) wishes to express its concern that yet another Guyanese product appears to be unfairly discriminated against entering regional markets,” the statement added.
When Stabroek Business last spoke with Rooster Products Managing Director, Roopan Ramotar late last week he appeared resigned to the fact that the coconut water had been rejected. While he has expressed an interest in re-importing the consignment, Stabroek Business understands that the decision as to whether the shipment is released for return to Guyana or destroyed by the authorities in Port of Spain has to be made by the authorities there.