Minister of Commerce and Industry Donville Inniss has promised to carry out an investigation into claims by one garment manufacturer that some clothing are entering the island with fraudulent labels.
This follows complaints from managing director of River Bay Trading Ian Pickup that some items of clothing were being imported from Trinidad with Made in Trinidad labels but, upon closer examination, it was discovered that the original tags were replaced.
“Illegal imports, re-labelling and false labelling and false invoicing are real problems again,” Pickup told Inniss during a tour of his company in Wildey, St Michael today.
In response, the minister said: “I think we are duty bound as a Government, as the competent authority, to do our investigations to ensure that the items entering our port are actually made where they say they are being made. And I give the assurance that this is a matter we will take up immediately with the competent authorities – in this case Mr Pickup has identified Trinidad – and I will have some investigations done prior to my visit to Trinidad next month on other business.”
The minister also gave the assurance that concerns about River Bay Trading being under threat because of imports from the Dominican Republic (DR) flooding the market, were being addressed.
Pickup noted that between October 2013 and this month, his company had been hit hard by the imports and it had seen a 19.5 per cent decline in adult t-shirt sales and a 20 per cent drop in the sale of children’s t-shirts. This, he said, was due mostly to duty free products being imported from the Dominican Republic.
“The Dominican Republic imports are a real threat and had a dramatic effect on our business this year . . . If you put DR imports against River Bay sales . . . overall we are being outsold in our own market by the Dominican Republic imports. It is a serious matter, a very serious matter,” said Pickup.
“The problem with the Dominican Republic imports is the duty under the CARICOM/ Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement, so they are able to enter and sell their shirts at about 30 to 40 per cent lower than our regular price.”
Armed with statistics, Pickup told Inniss that between January and June this year, total imports from the Dominican Republic were 76,196, compared to his sales, which stood at 58,553 for the same period. He said while total revenue for last year stood at $2.4 million, he expected that to drop to $2.3 million by the end of the financial year, September 30.
The clothing manufacturer who employs 40 people said high electricity costs, high transportation costs and continued increase in input costs, especially cotton, were also stifling his operations.
Pickup said despite drawing the problems to the attention of the relevant authorities and having “several meetings with ministry individuals” no action has been taken to date.
“I have been banging on about this for a really long time and I am really angry . . . . What this does is it demonstrates how easy it is to cheat,” he said.
However, Inniss insisted it was not correct to say that no one was doing anything about it.
“I wish to give the assurance that the Government is not turning a deaf ear to the manufacturing sector. We recognise that it is still a significant contributor to the economy – almost five per cent of GDP – employing quite a number of Barbadians, earning and saving foreign exchange,” he said.
The minister also promised that “the necessary surveillance” would be carried out to ensure “we are getting the taxpayers and the Government what is right fully theirs” by ensuring the appropriate rates of duty are applied to items based on their origin and using the correct tariff rates.