by Linda Straker
- MNIB was established over 40 years ago
- Hundreds of farmers supply MNIB with fresh fruits and vegetables
- Small staff will be kept to maintain sugar importation
70 people employed with the Marketing and National Importing Board (MNIB) will search for new jobs as of 1 March 2023, because the Government has decided to shut down the entity in its current format. MNIB was established over 40 years ago.
“Yes, I can confirm that it will be shut down as of the end of February,” said Henry Joseph, Chairman of the Board. He said that the immediate plan is to keep a small staff whose duty will be to maintain the importation of sugar to the island. “As you know, the MNIB is responsible for the importation of sugar, so that will be the task of those who will remain… the board will also continue, and it will be tidying up of things of the operations.” Joseph was appointed chairman in August 2022.
When asked if the MNIB law will be repealed or replaced to result in establishing another entity, Joseph said that Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell will inform the public in a couple of days as to the Government’s decision for the future of the entity.
Prime Minister Mitchell disclosed on Tuesday, 19 July 2022, during his first post-cabinet briefing, that the operation of the MNIB was costing Government, and based on preliminary briefings from the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, consideration was being given to shutting its doors. “I want to be very clear that based on my preliminary briefing as it pertains to MNIB, we may have to seriously consider ending the life of the MNIB and reconstituting either a new entity or an entity that really was meant to carry out the mandate of the MNIB,” he said.
“We are here to take decisions, sometimes hard decisions. We simply cannot continue kicking the football down the road and expect that you can always come to the Government for bailout after bailout after bailout, with no turnaround in the fortunes of the entity, with no real plan to achieve the things that the MNIB was meant to do,” he said, disclosing that MNIB costs government millions to continue operations.
In January, the Government conducted several consultations with farmers to determine a final decision for the MNIB, which, besides importing refined sugar, is also seen as the chief supplier of fresh fruit and vegetables. Hundreds of farmers supply the MNIB with fresh fruits and vegetables, while several manufacturers place their agri-products, such as confectionery, at the MNIB for sale.
Throughout the consultation, there were cross-cutting opinions; while some called for MNIB to be continued, others called for it to shut down. However, during a consultation with juice manufacturers, Andy Williams, Minister for Mobilisation, Implementation and Transformation, said it is not the Government’s intention to shut down the MNIB.
“Let me just say that we are not closing down MNIB. I think the Prime Minister said that option is not on the table. The idea is how can we make it more efficient, and that is why we wanted to have consultations with the people so that when we make our decision, we can be guided accordingly,” he said when one manufacturer asked about alternatives for storing and obtaining fresh fruits.