By Adrian Loveridge
When we moved to Barbados almost 25 years ago and purchased what was a semi-derelict Arawak Inn, beginning our journey in hotel operation, as non-nationals, not surprisingly, only a handful of suppliers would extend us credit.
We have remained fiercely loyal and faithful to that small group.
Adrian Loveridge has spent 46 years in the tourism industry across 67 countries, as a travel agent, tour director, tour operator and for the last 24 years as a small hotel owner on Barbados. He served as a director of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, and as chairman of the Marketing Committee. He also served as a director of the Barbados Tourism Authority and is a frequent writer on tourism issues.
So when PineHill made its entirely unilateral decision to stop producing yogurts, it went entirely in the face of a policy we implemented when Peach and Quiet opened. That was, whenever practical, to buy local.
What is also almost incomprehensible is that this decision was made at a time when our struggling dairy industry is trying to survive in the wake of a massive unsold milk glut.
One or two people have indicated that PineHill did in fact issue a public notice in the media to the effect that they would no longer be manufacturing yogurts. But wouldn’t you, as a matter of course, write to customers that have traded with you for two decades?
After all, we have never been too busy to write and sign, literally hundreds of cheques to them over that period. It almost reeks of arrogance and indifference on their part.
So what do the 160 or so registered hotels, hundreds of villas, apartments and condominiums do now?
In our own case, we have been forced to purchase imported yogurts from a distributor who brings in the French brand, Yoplait. While the individual containers do not show a country of origin, the packaging does, and indicates that they are made at their US subsidiary in Minneapolis.
So at a critical time, when we are trying to retain every cent of foreign earnings, here we are importing an item that has a long history of local production, which is being trucked and shipped by refrigerated transport over a distance of at least 6,000 miles.
Just think about the carbon footprint for a minute.
Surely the company has to publicly explain why they have chosen this time to cease production and why it is no longer viable. With over 500,000 long stay visitors annually, plus sales to locals, cruise ship companies and in-flight caterers, what is the problem?
Another point that should be raised, are the recognised health benefits associated with yogurts and would it not be in the national interest to encourage more consumption. Foreign alternatives, almost certainly will be more expensive and in these challenging times that alone will stifle demand.
I was also surprised that yogurt attracted 17.5 percent VAT, as it surely could not be considered a luxury food item, but more a weapon against obesity and digestive disorders.
Back on 13th January 2011, under a large attention grabbing Nation News banner headline ‘Bigger Basket’, the then Minister of Trade stated that more VAT exempt items would be added to the ‘basket’. Once again, this appears to be only just more rhetoric.
I really hope that PineHill will re-consider their decision or alternatively take steps to relinquish their near monopoly of milk processing, by giving another manufacturer a chance in Barbados.
With rights there are responsibilities and, while yogurt may seem to some as an insignificant part of the bigger picture, to me it’s the line in the sand.
After yogurt, what comes next?
Will PineHill then transfer milk production to Trinidad, because due to energy costs, it’s cheaper to boil the liquid there?