- Government should say what the plans are for next year’s Carnival
- Samaroo’s suffers from both domestic and export loss
- Supports govt’s decision to cancel this year’s festival
Today should have been Carnival Thursday. Normally, this would mean by now masqueraders would have either already collected their costumes or started preparing to do so.
In fact, some of you may have been organising to call in sick from work today, to head to a day fete such as Caesar’s Army’s AM Beach or Headley’s All-Inclusive.
But, instead, you are in the office reading this.
This is not a normal time. There is no Carnival this year.
February 15 and 16 are no longer Carnival Monday and Tuesday in this country, no matter what the calendar on your wall may say.
The COVID-19 pandemic has pulled the plug on the “Greatest Show on Earth.”
And while this situation may simply cause a Carnival tabanca for some.
For others, this has serious financial ramifications.
As Bunji Garlin (Ian Alvarez) sang in his 2021 Soca, Heart of the People:
“Carnival is a sea that’s deep.”
One entity that can attest to that is the Samaroo’s Group of Companies.
For more than 70 years Samaroo’s has become synonymous with Carnival.
The company prides itself as being “the international Carnival supplier.”
Samaroo’s was founded in 1949 by the late Norman Samaroo.
The first store was located at 3-5 Observatory Street in Port-of-Spain starting off as a general goods supplier before eventually settling into the niche of specialising in the supply of materials to produce Carnival costumes.
And so with no Carnival this year things have become tricky.
“We are hurting and our customers are hurting,” managing director Steve Samaroo told the Business Guardian.
In September, the company was forced to permanently close its Port-of-Spain branch because of the pandemic.
The company now operates two offices, one on Boundary Road in San Juan, and the other at the Cross Crossing in San Fernando.
Despite the financial strain a cancellation of Carnival would cause, Samaroo said the company was in support of the government’s call to cancel the festival this year to help in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result, the company did not order supplies this year to help with the financial constraints there were facing.
During a press conference last week Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley confirmed that there would definitely be absolutely no Carnival this year.
“As long as the problem we’re facing is a problem rooted and fertilised by congregation and closeness of people, that’s (Carnival at this time) an oil and water situation. Carnival and COVID doh mix,” Rowley said.
“Let us not forget that as we miss Carnival, what we don’t want to be a participant in is Carnival of coffins okay?” he said.
But that was this year.
That was expected, Samaroo said.
What he would really like an answer to is what the plans are for the hosting of Carnival next year.
Samaroo wants to hear from the government what the plans are for hosting Carnival.
And that discussion needs to be held as soon as possible, Samaroo said.
“When Carnival is over we start planning for the next one, it takes time to get things in place,” Samaroo said.
With the advent of the COVID vaccines and the expectant arrival of the Oxford-AstraZeneca to this nation’s shores in a few weeks, Samaroo said the discussion on the way forward needs to take place now.
“We need them to give us some hope,” Samaroo added.
The cancellation of other Carnivals around the world has also impacted the company significantly, Samaroo said.
Samaroo’s has become a major exporter of Carnival raw material.
“As persons across different nations introduce and strive to improve their own Carnival celebrations, they would often look at the trends and innovations emanating out of Trinidad and Tobago, especially since Carnival here is earlier in the year than other Carnivals in different territories,” Samaroo said.
“Hence as trends are followed, this would invariably lead back to the source of these materials, which would then lead designers and creators to Samaroo’s,” he said.
Samaroo’s now boasts of international customers as far north as Canada and as far south as South Africa.
“Needless to say, most if not all the Caribbean islands make purchases from us, along with designers from different states in the U.S.,” Samaroo stated.
When customers purchase from Samaroo’s they benefit from the company’s expertise and years of extensive experience, he said.
To help customers with purchasing, Samaroo said the company is on a thrust to improve its online shopping.
This, he said, will aid in overcoming the foreign exchange difficulties that many companies around the country, including Samaroo’s, are currently facing.
Another problem facing the company, Samaroo said, is the rising shipping cost in the Middle East.
On its online shopping website www.samaroosltd.com the company offers Carnival supplies that include appliqués and sequins, rhinestones, beads, glitter, and an assortment of feathers.
Samaroo’s is currently has a “Virtual Carnival Supplies Sale” that is carded to end tomorrow.
To overcome the issues surrounding the restrictions in place because of COVID, many artistes and entertainers have resorted to hosting virtual events.
The Carnival calendar is now packed with events by Soca artistes.
Samaroo’s, however, is unable to benefit in any substantial way from the virtual events, he said.
Carnival 2022 is carded for February 28 and March 1.
Samaroo said it is beneficial that 2022 will be a late Carnival.
But he warned that to able to ensure things are put in place for a safe and secure Carnival there must be dialogue with stakeholders starting now.
Samaroo said a clear plan is needed.