(from left to right): Arturo Rodriguez Lordmendez, Member of the Board of Directors of The West Indian Tobacco Company; Anthony E. Phillip, Chairman of the Board of Directors of The West Indian Tobacco Company; Ramesh Ramdeen, CEO, Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association; Laurent Meffre, Managing Director, WITCO; the Honourable Paula Gopee-Scoon, Minister of Trade and Industry; Tricia Coosal, President, Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers Association; Ian De Souza, Chief Executive Officer, Chamber of Industry and Commerce and Ayleen Alleyne-Ovid, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

(Champs Fleurs, Trinidad, and Tobago) – West Indian Tobacco (WITCO), local manufacturer and sole regional distributor of/for tobacco products within CARICOM, has upgraded its manufacturing plant operations and upskilled its workforce at an investment valued at approximately TT$85 million.

Speaking during the Factory Recommissioning and Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony on Friday 11th March 2022, WITCO’s Managing Director Laurent Meffre noted the upgrades were ambitious especially amid the uncertainties the country is facing. He stated, however that this bold move is a clear demonstration of the organisation’s promise of A Better Tomorrow, not just as a corporate message, but as a commitment to recovery and growth of the national economy, and the caliber of Company’s “made in Trinidad and Tobago” products, both locally and across the regional export market.”

He said, “As a revenue generator, a net earner of Forex, and a responsible employer and corporate citizen with a focus on sustainability and national development, we care about the future of this country and its revival. As we enter the endemic stage of the pandemic, we see a promising future ahead. WITCO has always been supportive of the country’s economic agenda and the Government’s focus on diversification and investment. We also support the national campaign to “vaccinate to operate,” a partnership with the TTMA, to drive vaccinations in the business community.”

He further commended the ongoing partnership with the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers Association and others for its deeply engrained relationships and shared goals of growth and development, “We also continue to be reassured by the important steps and measures taken by the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Government to abate the escalation of illicit trade in all forms through the formation of the National Anti-illicit Tarde Task Force.”

WITCO’s Head of Manufacturing Taran Persad said the organization remains committed to innovation and the introduction of new products which provides both value and satisfaction, “The equipment upgrades which will fall squarely in the category of enhanced consumer value in our product offerings will allow us to revolutionise our brands, our portfolio, and our formats in alignment with global trends and will enable us to offer the consumer more value for money.  We take significant pride in leading the way in this industry.  We have done it for successfully for over a century and intend to continue to do so as we move full steam ahead towards a better tomorrow for our organisation and this country.”

“As we transition into 2022, these equipment up-grades coupled with an upskilled, committed and well-poised Operational team will serve to bolster our capabilities as a key and sustainable manufacturing source, underpinned by a robust strategy encompassing cultural transformation and employee ownership of our commitment to our stakeholders of A Better Tomorrow,” Mr. Persad remarked.

The Honourable Paula Gopee-Scoon, Minister of Trade and Industry said she is encouraged to witness the growth and success of private sector companies as this signals the inherent commitment to propelling and sustaining national economic growth. She said, “The installation of this new equipment, will now position the Company to be a contingent supplier to South and Central America. I applaud WITCO for taking this initiative, which would allow you to access new markets and indicate that the Government will provide the required support as necessary.”

Among the initiatives undertaken by the Government to assist the private sector are the introduction and strict monitoring of Special Economic Zones and the combatting of illicit trade. Minister Gopee-Scoon stated, “Illicit trade is a problem that has become the focus of many governments, international organizations, companies and non-governmental organizations worldwide.   Trinidad and Tobago has seen a rise in the presence of illegally traded consumer goods such as tobacco, alcohol and cleaning agents on the local market.”

Also in attendance at the Factory Recommissioning and Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony were Ayleen Alleyne-Ovid, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Industry; Anthony E. Phillip, Chairman of the Board of Directors of The West Indian Tobacco Company; Arturo Rodriguez Lordmendez, Member of the Board of Directors of The West Indian Tobacco Company; Tricia Coosal, President, Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers Association; Ramesh Ramdeen, CEO, Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association and Ian de Souza, Chief Executive Officer at the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce.