Bridgetown, Barbados – 22 April 2020: As the world continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, CARICOM rum producers have modified their production lines to play their part by producing alcohol and hand sanitiser and making donations of sanitation products. Across the Caribbean, contributions have been made to governments, institutions, and frontline healthcare workers and to support local communities impacted by the virus.
Some of the initial actions taken by WIRSPA member-producers to assist their various countries include:
• Angostura in Trinidad & Tobago re-directed one of its product lines towards the creation of 70,000 bottles bulk and retail size sanitising liquid, which were donated to front line workers in the Ministry of Health and Ministry of National Security in Trinidad. A donation was also made to community-based organizations working with senior citizens and children’s homes and a shipment was sent to the prisons. The venture was part of the company’s aim to combat the spread of the virus and to assist with meeting the demand for sanitisers, which are in short supply.
• Antigua Distillery in Antigua & Barbuda has made 4,300 litres of 70% alcohol readily available to produce hand sanitiser and disinfectant. The company has further made donations to Emergency and Essential Workers in Antigua and Barbuda to include Health & Medical Personnel, EMS, the Police & National Guard, Her Majesty’s Prison, and other persons on the front line. In addition, the company has supported the Government’s social initiative to provide care packages to the most affected in the society by providing the aforementioned sanitising products and bottled water to those in need.
• Casa Brugal in the Dominican Republic provided hospitals and public centers with 150,000 litres of 70% denatured alcohol donated through the National Health Service (SNS), for the purpose of using it as a disinfectant to protect patients and health personnel on the front line of the crisis. Another WIRSPA member, Vinícola Del Norte, partnered with Casa Brugal and packaging companies Plastidel and Nesplas to package the alcohol and provide containers and boxes so that the donation could be delivered swiftly and safely.
• Demerara Distillers in Guyana donated approximately 12,000 litres of Environ, an alcohol-based sanitising cleaner, to institutions around Guyana, such as senior citizen’s homes, orphanages, night shelters and prisons. In addition, 254 five-gallon bottles of Environ were given to the Health Emergency Operation Centre (HEOC), for distribution to public agencies such as health centers, public hospitals, post offices and police stations.
• Grenada Distillers produced some 1,200 cases of sanitising solution that was made available to all supermarkets and pharmacies island wide, with free distribution to various senior citizens’ and children’s homes. In addition, in collaboration with the Government of Grenada, sanitiser was donated to the public transport /bus association, traffic department, prison and other law enforcement entities. Hand sanitisers were also provided for all GDL employees.
• J. Wray and Nephew in Jamaica donated 50,000 litres of high strength alcohol and 20,000 litres of hand sanitizers to the national health service, through the National Health Fund (NHF) to ensure that public health facilities maintain international standards in responding to Jamaicans needs during this time. JWN also provided hand sanitizers to all staff, to first responders including police, fire brigade and vulnerable members of their communities including children’s home and infirmaries. JWN has committed US$37,000 to the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica’s COVID-19 Jamaica Fund, which will provide support for the Jamaican Government and persons affected by COVID-19.
• Mount Gay Distilleries in Barbados donated 2,000 bottles of hand sanitiser (WHO formula) to health officials, with a further estimated total of 28,000 bottles to be handed over for community outreach. Hand sanitisers were distributed to all staff with anti-COVID-19 procedures.
• National Rums of Jamaica has ramped up production to ensure all excess capacity can be utilized to produce alcohol for denaturing, to supply to local manufacturers and the Government to make sanitization products. Just over 10,000 liters of 95% denatured alcohol was donated to the National Health Fund, for use in the national fight against COVID-19.
• Ron Barceló in the Dominican Republic has allocated a significant part of their alcohol production to donations of ethyl alcohol and sanitising hand gel to support the efforts towards reducing the risk of contagion among the Dominican population from COVID-19. It also started a public campaign under the hashtag #juntosporrd (together for DR).
A first donation of 32,000+ litres of 75% ethyl alcohol, in 145 tanks of 220 litres were distributed to 12 hospitals across the Dominican Republic, as identified and classified by the public health authorities. The first donation was followed by another 100,000 units of sanitising hand gel, distributed among the general population as part of a program lead by a worldwide recognized non-profit organization.
Ultimately, a third donation of 100,000 bottles of sanitising hand gel is to be distributed among delivery service employees and mom and pop’s stores, some other medium and small retailers that are currently working within the rank of “strictly indispensable”, during the declared state of emergency.
• St. Lucia Distillers has produced a 70% ABV rubbing alcohol sanitiser which helped alleviate an island wide shortage of sanitiser for citizens. Some 20,000 bottles of bulk and retail sizes were donated to schools, the police and fire departments and to homes for the elderly, to help keep the most vulnerable on island safe.
• St. Vincent Distillers Ltd. produced Mt. Bentick’s Hand Sanitiser, a disinfectant solution developed using the WHO’s guidelines to meet the demand for desperately needed hand sanitiser in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, A first donation, of some 13 cases, was donated to the country’s first responders, health care workers, police station, clinics and hospitals.
• Suriname Alcoholic Beverages N.V. made initial donations of up to 10,000 hand sanitisers to the Public Health Agency and other government institutions, with more donations projected in the coming days. Ready-to use disinfectant alcohol is also being sold at cost, to other local businesses active in the sale and distribution of hand sanitisers and detergents. Joint projects with local beer companies and other businesses are also underway to produce hand gels and hand sanitisers with a variety of fragrances.
• Travellers Liquors in Belize reconfigured its distillery and packaging facility into a production centre to manufacture the alcohol-based hand sanitiser according to the WHO’s formula. Several batches were made totaling about 4800 litres in half gallon, litre and personal sizes, and donated to the public hospital, senior citizens homes, the Customs and Police Departments. Local organisations also benefited from the donations – Hope Haven Food Bank, San Pedro Polyclinic and the San Pedro Isolation/Flu Unit.
• West Indies Rum Distillery in Barbados has donated 55-gallon containers of hand sanitiser to the Barbados Government for use at fire stations, COVID isolation centers and the Customs department. It ramped up production to meet increased local demand from pharmacies, supermarkets and companies that produce retail products with surgical alcohol.
West Indies Rum has been providing staff and contractors each with disinfectant weekly for their personal and family use, for the duration of this pandemic. West Indies Rum has also been exporting alcohol to neighbouring Caribbean countries since the start of the pandemic, to satisfy much needed supplies.
• Westerhall Estate Ltd. in Grenada shifted from rum to production of hand sanitiser. Approximately 14,000 bottles of the solution, in 250ml and 1.75L quantities, were produced and donated to prisons, medical facilities, police stations and assisted living homes. The 69% proof alcohol-based sanitiser will become a permanent fixture on the product line.
WIRSPA Chairman, Komal Samaroo, “These contributions are just an early snapshot of our engagement to date, with many producers committed to further steps in the days ahead.
We are encouraging everyone to monitor their physical and mental health during this pandemic.
We are also encouraging consumers that if they choose to drink, to do so responsibly and be careful not to use alcohol as a coping mechanism for stress and anxiety, especially while in isolation.”
The West Indies Rum & Spirits Producers Association (WIRSPA) is one of the oldest, private sector trade associations in the Caribbean. It represents rum producers in Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Haiti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Suriname and Trinidad & Tobago.