BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Friday February 16, 2018 – After nearly a decade of outsourcing production of its ice creams, local company BICO Ltd could return to producing the sweet, frozen stuff at home again if all goes according to plan.
Executive Chairman Edwin Thirlwell announced yesterday that the financially struggling company was seeking to construct a BDS$3 million (US$1.5 million) production facility within another six months to manufacture a range of its ice cream products.
It was on August 18, 2009 that the ice cream company lost its Harbour Road, St Michael manufacturing facility to fire, forcing it to outsource its production to Trinidad and Suriname.
Speaking at the company’s annual media conference to report on its financial performance for the year ending September 30, 2017, Thirlwell said the decision to reconstruct a production plant here was due mainly to some challenges being experienced in the markets where the ice cream is being produced.
“While producing around the region has worked very well for us from 2010 until last year, at the end of last year we began to see faults arising in our supply routes. Suriname had capacity problems, Trinidad has got capacity and hard currency problems, and Jamaica never came on stream. So we have to secure our supply and so while we will continue to work with our friends around the region, I believe everything else being equal, we will move ahead [with a local production facility]. We are well advanced,” he said.
However, while pointing out that the company was in the process of getting quotes from the United States, Britain and Europe, Thirwell said construction of the plant would depend heavily on Government making some decisions of its own.
“Of course we need some assistance from Government. We have to make sure that the bound rate stays in place [and] we have to make sure that we get the duty-free concessions that we previously had,” he said, pointing out that negotiations were ongoing with the relevant Government ministries in that regard.
“We can’t move forward until we know that our base is secure. There is no point ordering all this equipment if in actual fact we are dead in water before we start. So once we get that done we are ready, willing and able to move. I am setting a tighter timeline than most people. So we think that given the decisions coming soon from Government we should be able to have something to look at and possibly producing in six months. So that is the plan,” Thirlwell told journalists.
The new plant, where most of its Double Delight range of products would be produced, will be designed to produce about one million gallons of ice cream per year.
Thirlwell said BICO was currently producing just enough to satisfy the local market due to high production costs, compounded by Government taxes.
“It is low margin business because if you don’t make it affordable they can’t buy it and sell it in their markets but that is something we will look at again once we are established and see what that cost base is like and whether we can service that. We have been asked for supplies but Trinidad and the others can’t supply so there will be a gap in there that we will be able to fill.
“That is what Government would like us to do. That would be the icing on the cake if we establish manufacturing and do export and earn some hard currency,” the BICO executive said. (Barbados Today)