T&T blocks import of $20M in packaged milk from Guyana

…as DDL calls on Govt to review trade policies with T&T

Despite efforts by the Caribbean Community (Caricom) to increase trade and the movement of goods within the region, a Guyanese company has once again had its exports blocked by a sister Caribbean country, Trinidad and Tobago (T&T).

At an emergency press conference called on Tuesday, Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) Chairman Komal Samaroo revealed that four 20 ft shipping containers of packaged milk and bottled water were recently blocked by Trinidadian authorities from entry into that country. The milk, according to him, was worth approximately US$100,000 (Gyd$20 million).
“This development is of grave concern to DDL, since it inhibits its ongoing efforts to meaningfully contribute to the food security efforts of the CARICOM region. DDL exported to Trinidad and Tobago during the month of March, four 20ft shipping containers of these products based on an evaluation of the Trinidad market by a Trinidadian business enterprise, which determined a desire for these products by the Trinidadian consumers,” Samaroo said.
“Regrettably, the two containers of packaged milk were denied entry and returned to Guyana, while the bottled water products have been restricted from sale pending the completion of an unconventionally exhaustive examination of these bottled water products,” Samaroo explained to the media.
He further related that on May 13, DDL had engaged with a team from the Trinidadian Ministry of Trade, where the topic of the rejected milk exports was discussed. According to Samaroo, the officials informed them that blocking the imports of the milk was based on Trinidad’s Animal Disease and Importation Act 2020. However, Samaroo described this process as “onerous and stringent.”
“DDL finds these requirements contrary to the spirit of intra-regional trade, especially since we are reliably informed that Guyana has no such reciprocal requirements for the importation of similar products from Trinidad and Tobago.”
“DDL therefore requests that the government of Guyana take note of these developments and seek to ensure that there is balance and equity in our trade relations with Trinidad and Tobago,” Samaroo further said.

DDL Chairman Komal Samaroo

Samaroo noted that these products have been exported to other Caricom territories with no such problems. As such, this is the first time they’ve encountered non-tariff trade barriers during their exports of their diversified line of products.
The executive also confirmed that Caricom Chairman, President Dr Irfaan Ali, was briefed on the situation. According to him, President Ali was “very shocked” and he added that he was confident the President would take action. He also assured that they would be pursuing every avenue to ensure redress is received, even hinting at the possibility of approaching the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
“We believe we will be having discussions with the government. And we believe this matter requires Caricom attention. You cannot be promoting trade on an uneven playing field, where you have ready access but nobody has access to your market. That cannot work,” Samaroo said.
Samaroo noted that they worked alongside an established importing company in Trinidad before exporting that had assured them that they satisfied all the restrictions. In fact, Samaroo revealed that these products are Food and Drug Agency (FDA) certified.
It would not be the first time Guyana has experienced hurdles exporting products to Trinidad. Years of battling with hinderances to the transshipment of certain products, such as honey, into Trinidad and Tobago, resulted in reports last year that legislation was before the Parliament of the twin-island Republic to resolve the decade-old issue.

Trade barriers by T&T
The Guyanese private sector has for years been lamenting about the various trade barriers in place by Trinidad, which serves to block Guyanese exports to that market, and which are not being adequately addressed by the Caribbean Community’s (Caricom’s) Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED).
In 2022, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) had been signed between Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, with the two countries agreeing to work with each other in eradicating trade non-tariff barriers, as well as in the areas of infrastructure development and transportation.
Among the resolutions contained in the MoU, was for the two parties to work assiduously on the removal of barriers to the trade of agricultural products throughout the Region. This includes phytosanitary standards.
According to the MoU, “the parties agree to work with each other in the areas of trade and investment, agriculture and food security, security, energy, and infrastructure, and other areas as may be determined, with the aim of developing a strategic co-operation partner for the mutual benefit of their respective countries and the wider Caribbean Community.”
It goes on to state that non-tariff barriers and “other impediments to the flow of goods and services between them”, as well as promoting co-operation in the areas of sports, culture, tourism and education, will be pursued under the MoU.
In his first address in February to Caricom Heads of Government as Chairman of the group, President Ali had made an urgent call for regional leaders to remove trade barriers among their countries and more so, challenged citizens to pressure them to do so. (G3)