Ramsaran Dairy Products threatens lawsuit over forex scarcity

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Finance Minister Colm Imbert – File photo by Ayanna Kinsale

Director of local beverage producer Ramsaran Dairy Products (RDP) is threatening legal action over his inability to source foreign exchange to import paper-based cartoons for a new water product.

A pre-action protocol letter to the Attorney General on April 15 said in March and September 2017, requests by Rajnanan Ramsaran, founder of RDP, were refused by Finance Minister Colm Imbert.

Ramsaran’s attorney Richard Jaggasar said, “It is here that we form the view that foreign exchange in Trinidad and Tobago may not be equally distributed and as a result we have asked for the policies surrounding the distribution of foreign exchange issued by the Central Bank which governs the distribution of foreign exchange at the commercial banks.”

He pointed to at least four companies which, he said, did not appear to be faced with similar difficulties accessing foreign exchange.

“Ramsaran Dairy Products is a well-known brand/ product in Trinidad and Tobago. It is a reputable medium-sized family-owned business that has been in operation for several years.”

The letter said RDP has contributed to the local economy, providing jobs and locally made products which are packaged in paper-based cartoons. Other locally-based producers, the letter said, predominantly package their products in plastic packaging.

“ It is universally acceptable that plastic is bad for the environment and degradable and / or reusable substances are preferred the world over.”

The letter pointed to a large distributor as an “example of the unequal distribution of wealth and resources.

“To put it plainly, some companies appear to be gaining liberal access for foreign exchange while others are being unjustly denied equal and fair treatment.

“…Moreover, it is noteworthy that while some of the companies are mere agents or redistributors of imported materials, Ramsaran Dairy Products is a locally-based product which means investments and revenue will circulate in Trinidad and Tobago.

“Whereas the agents and redistributors only drain our nation’s foreign exchange reserves and limit local growth and development. In that context we argue it may actually be better to revise the current policy to consider investment growth and local product development.”

In March 2023, Ramsaran sought information from the Central Bank on the distribution of foreign exchange between 2015-2023.

An extension to provide a response was sought until April 2024 by a designated officer of the ministry. However, Jaggasar there was no formal request or acknowledgement so he was forced to send the pre-action letter on his client’s behalf.

The letter alleged that Ramsaran’s applications for foreign exchange necessary for his livelihood have been consistently been refused while other companies and consumers of forex are treated differently and more favourably.

“It is essential to underscore the unique value of paper-based cartons utilised by the intended claimant. These cartons not only distinguish the intended claimant’s products from competitors but also align with sustainable business practices, reflecting a commitment to environmental responsibility.”

The letter pointed out that studies show that TT imports over 129,669 metric tons of plastic annually, some of which are used in exports, leaving 123,297 metric tons in the environment and “a staggering 1.75 million tons of plastic waste generated annually.”