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Buy Caribbean – CARICOM slaps 30 percent higher duties on imported condensed milk

Posted: Thursday, January 12, 2023. 8:31 am CST.

Photo Credit: Grace Kennedy (Belize) Limited

By Aaron Humes: According to the Government of Belize, there will be a “negligible” effect on prices for condensed milk despite an increase in import duty of 30 percent on non-Caribbean Community (CARICOM) sources of the product, popularly used in baking and cooking and even as a substitute for powdered milk.

In a statement, the Government said this new duty was imposed on January 1, 2023, on all members of the CARICOM Single Market (CSME), including Belize, legislated by the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (RTC).

A product produced by a CARICOM state is entitled to protection in the regional market through the Common External Tariff (CET), which sets higher protective rates of import duties. If the product can be supplied up to 75 percent of the annual total regional consumption, then per standing regional trade policy organized by the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) can list the product under the List of Commodities Ineligible for Conditional Duty Exemption (CICDE), ensuring import duty protection.

Jamaica, through such brands as Betty, Dairy Champ, and Grace Kennedy Limited (which has a branch in Belize), has been producing condensed milk for some time and has recently increased its production to meet the 75 percent threshold, allowing it to request CICDE protection which was granted. Thus, no government can grant import duty exemptions for these products without prior authorization by COTED. Belize delayed implementation to coincide with the introduction of the Revised CET based on the 2022 version of the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, which is the basis of Belize’s Customs Tariff Schedule. Now, the revised rate is in force and must be applied.

Belize, the Government notes, also relies on this policy to ensure similar protection for its own products, in particular, sugar and frozen concentrated orange and grapefruit juices, when exported to CARICOM states. Last year the Caribbean Court of Justice reaffirmed this in the matter of an original jurisdiction case brought by Belize on behalf of Belize Sugar Industries Limited/American Sugar Refining (BSI/ASR) against Trinidad and Tobago and Saint Kitts and Nevis. The latter settled, but the former was able to prove it had nothing to do with the importing of brown sugar from Guatemala and Honduras outside of CET protection.

But the bottom line is that while condensed milk does not enjoy price controls, importers and resellers cannot jack up prices for the product and are encouraged to obtain more of the Jamaican product. Government did not offer any figures as to how much condensed milk is imported and from which sources.


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