March 31, 2006

Reducing energy cost – An important concern

Regional rum producers have been urged to pay special attention to energy conservation opportunities in their plants. Energy use is not only a major component in the cost of production of rum but is also a global environmental concern, and recent increases in the price of oil have dramatically increased its cost to Caribbean producers.

The call came at a seminar for regional rum producers held on the 15 – 16 March, 2006 at the Accra Beach Hotel in Barbados. Organised by the West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers’ Association Inc. (WIRSPA), the seminar is one in a series organised under the Integrated Development Programme for the Caribbean Rum Sector. {{more}}This project, which is being financed by a contribution of 70m Euros from the European Union and 88m Euros in co-financing from producers, aims to support the Caribbean rum sector to upgrade and modernise production and waste treatment facilities and engage in the promotion of regional rum brands.

To date, almost €35m worth of projects have been approved, attracting over 12m Euros in grant financing from the Programme. The grants are for over 100 projects in areas such as feasibility studies, training, waste treatment, distillery modernisation and marketing assistance for 19 companies in the ACP Caribbean rum sector. Beneficiary countries include Antigua & Barbuda, St. Kitts & Nevis, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad & Tobago.

In the area of upgrading distilleries, the projects capitalised by the Programme include new fermenting and distillation units, bottling lines, quality assurance, ageing of rum, quality management, food standards and training. In the area of marketing, projects include new product development and market testing, market research, advertising and brand building promotions. In the area of waste treatment, projects include feasibility studies for waste treatment systems, upgrading of current methods of disposal and installation of new systems so as to enable companies to meet environmental standards and international best practice.

The Seminar, the tenth in the series organised by WIRSPA since the project’s inception in 2002, saw over 50 participants coming from countries ranging from Guyana in the South to the Bahamas in the North, representing some 19 producers.

The Seminar covered topics such as energy conservation opportunities in electrical and steam systems, possibilities for cogeneration and anaerobic digestion of distillery waste. Other areas addressed during the two-day seminar were the ageing of rum and health and safety in production plants. The ageing of rum, if well managed, can add great value to the product, value which is retained in the Caribbean.

Health and Safety issues are a crucial area of focus in industrial plants and attention to these areas, aside from providing appropriate protection to staff, have a beneficial effect on productivity.

Opportunity was taken during the seminar to distribute to participants a revised version of a Best Practice Guide to Caribbean Rum Production, published by WIRSPA.