On August 4th Demerara Rum joined a select group of products that enjoys special treatment in international trade. It was entered on the EU register of Geographical Indications (by means of Commission Implementing Regulation 2021/1291 of 28 July 2021) and the Regulation was published in the EU Official Journal on 4 August. (The electronic versions of the Regulation itself and the Official Journal should be available on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website shortly.)
That registration will put this rum in the same category as champagne (France), Tequila (Mexico) and Gruyère cheese (Switzerland). With that distinction will come a de facto international endorsement of the product’s quality and standing so that customers will also be able to be assured about its genuineness. In this era of counterfeits and fakes, such endorsement is a kind of assurance that the produce so designated has benefited from being produced in this specific location, Demerara, with whatever uniqueness its environment – mud, soils, sun, and water – endow. This dimension of branding should also inform and attract customers, generate greater demand for the product and enable the DDL to command a premium by way of price. More buoyant demand for the product and improved income for the company should also follow thereby benefiting DDL employees, cane farmers and Guyana as a whole.
I think congratulations are therefore due all around for this achievement. First, to DDL management for embracing the initiative and sticking with it over the years in the face of lethargy and indifference in very surprising places and of course, resistance from competitors. In that regard, Mr KomalSamaroo, in particular, should be mentioned. Mr Samaroo, who inherited the assignment from Mr Yesu Persaud, his predecessor, has persisted with this endeavour with considerable energy and conviction not to mention great calmness.
Many Guyanese stand to benefit directly and indirectly from this work initiated several years ago when I was the Senior Director at the CRNM, Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) and subsequently taken up and supported by the European Commission. Such support is, I might add, provided for in the CARIFORUM EPA. It remains to be seen whether the producers of other Guyana products with the same potential will stay the course but as of August 4, 2021, Demerara Rum has been treated as a product with distinctive, measurable, and desirable characteristics. Characteristics distinctive that is, from other rums. The success of the other interested Guyanese producers will depend on their commitment, skills and our regulative agencies such as the Guyana Bureau of Standards.
DDL attained this happy point after years of endeavour. In pursuit of this goal of branding highly desired but often unsung characteristics of certain products originating in Guyana, a number of other entities, including Guysuco and the Ministry of Agriculture, joined the MoFA in the exercise. There has been much energy devoted to raising local awareness and expertise. Readers will recall that in early December 2016, for example, a conference was convened in Georgetown to disseminate information on Geographical Indications (GIs), the title under which this matter is known. Again, in the first week of Sept 2019 the MoFA with IDB funding, convened in Guyana the most recent workshop on GIs. Other collaborators and agencies assisting in this endeavour over the years have included the CRNM and its successor, the OTN at the CARICOM Secretariat and Deeds and Commercial Registries Authority. WIPO in Geneva might also be mentioned in this context.
In pursuing GIs the MoFA relied on the energy of its Mission in Brussels so special mention should be made of our fmr Ambassador to Belgium, Dr P.I Gomes, outgoing Ambassador David Hales and their officers particularly, Snr Foreign Service Officer, Ms Bevon Mac Donald.
Finally, and most importantly Mr. Bernard O’Connor, Senior Counsel (Ireland) and Resident Partner of Nctm Brussels has played a pivotal role in the exercise in general and that of DDL in particular. His firm has helped to prepare the case for consideration by the ACP-EU and has worked with locals, to train the relevant officials and to raise public awareness. In addition, to the preparation of technical material and advice, Prof O’Connor has constantly encouraged us, reminded us of deadlines, cajoled and even pleaded with us to ensure that the Government of Guyana and its agencies did what was necessary and did so in the timely manner needed.
DDL itself funded the firm’s work on rum during which exercise Prof O’Connor S.C, displayed the same energy, enthusiasm and support.
It remains for the other interested enterprises in the private sector including sugar, molasses and coffee to pursue with conviction, skill and commitment at least equally that of the rum industry in order to enjoy the benefits open to this select band of producers associated with GI products.