Caribbean Export lends support to Jamaican coffee exporters to grow in EU

The Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) will finance a marketing consultancy to enhance the competitiveness of Jamaican coffee exporters in the European Union (EU) market.

The initiative was developed following a meeting between Jamaica’s Ambassador to Belgium, H.E. Symone Betton Nayo and Deodat Maharaj, Executive Director of the Caribbean Export.

The first phase of the consultancy will focus on an analysis of the EU coffee market, including market entry requirements and the penetration strategies of other major coffee exporters to the EU. The second phase will focus on developing a targeted marketing strategy for the EU coffee market.

The initiative will address issues raised at a meeting in May 2021 between Jamaican, Belgian and other EU coffee stakeholders about the need for a marketing strategy in the EU. Participants requested that the strategy provides guidance on sustainability, telling the story of the product and ways to appeal to young people, a growing EU consumer base.

The initiative is funded by the European Union under the 11th EDF Regional Private Sector Development programme.

The Jamaica Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade will host a launch event for this initiative on 27 January 2022, from 10 – 11 AM EST. The Honourable Kamina Johnson Smith, Her Excellency, Ambassador Symone Betton-Nayo, Deodat Maharaj and other key partners will participate in the event. The consultant, Windward Commodities will present a proposed review of the EU coffee market.

3 urgent goals for sustainable growth, opportunity and jobs in 2022 and beyond

As we enter the festive season and end 2021 under the long shadow of the pandemic and escalating climate crisis, the Caribbean and its people have demonstrated commendable resilience.

Looking ahead, this resilient spirit will be required more than ever if we are to create growth, generate precious jobs and provide opportunity for our people. This is especially needed considering the pandemic and existential threat we face from climate change are not going away. The issue to confront is whether we continue with the same policy prescriptions and approaches. Quite frankly, business as usual has not served us well and will not work in an equally or even more challenging 2022.

To build a resilient Caribbean, business must play a central and important leadership role in both driving economic recovery and creating climate-friendly growth. In essence, a strong and vibrant private sector is core to help manage and solve the challenges we face, which will in turn create opportunities for our people.

From my standpoint, I am aware that we cannot do everything given the already heavy burden carried by administrations across our Region. However, doing more of the same or nothing at all are not viable options. Therefore, as a Region we must build on the core asset of our capable and resilient people so clearly demonstrated in these testing times to realise three practical goals that will help fast-track recovery and lay the basis for a resilient Caribbean.

1. Regional Capital Market

Caribbean countries are just too small to navigate an increasingly complex and challenging global landscape. Consequently, regional integration cannot be an option for small open economies as we have in our Region to survive in a global architecture where the giants are determining the rules of the game. There is indeed strength in numbers from both geopolitical and economic perspectives. I am also conscious of the need and scale to attract foreign direct investment at a level that can create the jobs and opportunity. Pooling our countries as one investment destination in areas such as AgTech or renewables can help achieve the scale required. Simultaneously, we need to facilitate the flow of capital from within the Region, so Caribbean people can have a stake in an enterprise regardless of location.

In a 2020 survey of around 450 enterprises carried out by the Caribbean Export Development Agency and Caribbean Development Bank, businesses across the Region cited lack of access to finance as their biggest constraint. Yet still at the end of 2021, we do not have a regional capital market allowing the free flow of capital across the Caribbean that can give the average citizen a stake in an enterprise in another jurisdiction. Whereas I recognise that foreign direct investment is vital to attract both technology and capital, there is an equally critical role for finance that is already within the Region. Consequently, we need to unlock capital already available in the Caribbean. Advancing a Regional Capital Market in the coming year will have a transformational impact on unleashing precious indigenous financing for business.

2. Improve the ease of doing business in the Caribbean

Quite simply, business cannot help drive recovery and play a leadership role in creating jobs and opportunity in the current business environment. It is difficult to do business in the Caribbean. Apart from Jamaica and St Lucia, the region is in the bottom half of the 200 countries globally assessed by the World Bank in its 2020 Ease of Doing Business Report. We need to look at areas where we can get quick wins such as registering a business. In Singapore, it takes one day. In Mauritius, it is usually not more than one week. Except for Jamaica, Caribbean jurisdictions lag behind the rest of the world, taking weeks or even months to register and start a business. A simple first step is pulling out all the stops to make it easier for national, regional and indeed international enterprises to register and start a business in our Region.

3. Expand non-tourism related services as the next frontier for Caribbean business

Our economies have been historically connected with the production of commodities. As we sought to move away from traditional products such as sugar and rice, tourism became the mainstay of much of the Caribbean. As subsequent natural disasters such as Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 and COVID-19 have demonstrated, this leaves us vulnerable whenever there is a major shock to the global economy. Therefore, the time is now to capitalise on our rich human capital and transition to non-tourism related services.

For example, there is huge potential to grow or break into markets like business process outsourcing and information and communication technology, which saw a 6 percent increase in exports in the pandemic according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), valued globally at USD 676 billion in 2020. Creative industries also hold great promise to market the talent of our people in areas such as music and the business of carnival. We at the Caribbean Export Development Agency have identified this as a priority over the next three years. To have a lasting impact, the services sector must receive the support it needs in terms of policy, resources and partnerships.

To effect transformation requires vision backed by action. Building a resilient Caribbean and creating jobs and opportunity for our people cannot be achieved overnight given the multiplicity of constraints we face. At the same time, there are areas we need to treat with the highest priority, hence my three wishes for 2022.

Proagro, a family business trying to break into the international market

The family business is one of the pillars of the national economy, especially when it is based on strong values and attached to best business practices. Proagro Dominicana is a worthy example of this maxim. It is an industry dedicated mainly to the production of fortified dairy powder products that has successfully managed to overcome the challenges of breaking into a segment of the Dominican market.

In 2005, José Luciano, a Dominican technician who had built up extensive experience working in the agricultural section of important companies, at the time of his retirement, decided to start off a business and, together with his wife Indhira Santana, founded Proagro Dominicana with the aim of marketing domestic agricultural products.

As a production strategy, Proagro has evolved since its inception. Its catalogue of products includes raw materials such as bitter cocoa powder and sugar, aimed at the pastry industry, while strengthening the maquiladora system or the product development system for major national supermarket chains, for whom milk powder, sweet and bitter cocoa, oats, sugar, among others are packaged.

Export, the great dream

Since 2017, Proagro Dominicana has set its eyes on the international market, after participating in a workshop sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and Production of Santo Domingo, aimed at entrepreneurs having interesting exportable offers to place in international markets.

By the end of that year and early 2018, Proagro was initiating its export strategy in markets as distant as Russia and the United States, or as close as Puerto Rico.

Dominican cocoa, a bargaining chip

The products made with Dominican cocoa are highly recognized worldwide because they maintain characteristics called “fine flavour cocoa”, a quality that is used by Proagro to break into international markets under its brand name, La Criollita. Proagro uses the Hispaniola variety, a cocoa fermented under a Dominican technique that enhances the taste and flavour, and reduces the acidity, making it a “fine flavour cocoa”.

“The experience we have had in Russia, which is a fairly demanding market, as well as in Miami and the Bronx in the United States, is that the public attaches importance to the taste and flavour of this product, generating an immediate sale,” explained Indhira Santana, general manager of Proagro Dominicana.

“We work together with the National Confederation of Dominican Cocoa Producers (CONACADO), one of the largest associations in the country, which has a membership of more than 40 thousand small cocoa producers and has a very important social impact, since they, together with Rizek and Roig, are the largest local cocoa exporters. Twenty percent (20%) of their production remains in the country, and producers like us make a difference,” said Santana.

“Caribbean Export came to our aid at the most opportune time”

Proagro Dominicana is part of the group of ten companies selected by Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) under the Haiti-Dominican Republic Binational Cooperation Programme, funded through the 11th European Development Fund, which provides for a Binational Value Chain Strategy for the cocoa sector with the aim of maximizing the export potential of both nations.

The support of the European Union (EU) has been a key part of Proagro’s opening up to the international market. “This support comes to us at a time when we were not exporting, because we made the last export in 2019 and after the pandemic we stopped exports,” explained Indira Santana.

As Santana stated, Caribbean Export helped to identify which competencies were necessary for Proagro to be able to export successfully. “The Agency provided us with technical assistance to update our business plan and to be able to establish how Proagro’s conditions were from a financial perspective. They financed a consultant who carried out a feasibility study and a financial performance analysis to prepare us for the export market”.

According to Proagro’s general manager, the feasibility study funded by Caribbean Export became the springboard for the company to launch itself and have the right vision of what needed to be done. “A strategic work plan for export was created and concrete targets were set to achieve, with the result that exports made up 8% of the company’s sales budget.”

Taking advantage of all opportunities

Laura Marrero, international trade fair coordinator at Proagro, explained that “the experience of exporting to Miami and New York in 2017 and 2018 showed us how our products, especially La Criollita, were accepted by the Hispanic consumer, as well as the American consumers who were aware of organic products from the Caribbean”.

In 2021, trade fairs were started in a face-to-face manner. The first fair in which they participated was “Dominican Taste Festival 2021”, held in New York from July 24 to 25, organized by ProDominicana and the Dominican Embassy in the United States. Proagro received financial support from Caribbean Export to participate in the fair.

As a result of this fair, Proagro will export to the United States the first shipment of some ten pallets, and another container of 20 pallets is planned for December 2021. “We are doing fine now. The brand will not be by itself, but will be accompanied by a marketing strategy and the experience that we have garnered from the mistakes we made before.”

Dominican pride and enthusiasm at the Russian fair

With the strategic and financial support of Caribbean Export, Proagro participated in WorldFood Moscow, held in Russia from September 20 to 23, 2021. This fair became an area of great potential for the export of Dominican products, especially cocoa by-products.

As a result of its participation in WorldFood Moscow, Proagro reactivated its business contacts, which had started in 2019. “During the Moscow fair, there were many opportunities for starting business negotiations. We made contacts with representatives in Russia of other Dominican companies, and we have already sent them a proposal. We are currently in the closing phase of the process for arranging the first shipments we will make to Russia,” added Indhira Santana. 

Confident in the future

Proagro is currently working on establishing distribution strategies in the United States. Exports are estimated to increase and continue growing for the next year. “The sales projection we have is that from 2022 we ship a container of our products every month.” A container is equal to 20 pallets, about 1,400 boxes, which would be 22 tons of consolidated products.

As a result of the assistance from Caribbean Export, Proagro Dominicana is preparing to set up a Proagro subsidiary in Miami or New York and one in Russia. “That is our goal for the near future, which will allow us to make our products 30% cheaper to the overseas consumer, and give us control over the distribution chain of our goods in those countries,” stated Indhira Santana.

An innovative private sector: A prerequisite for Caribbean green economy transition

The Caribbean has been at the forefront of the ongoing COP26 climate change negotiations taking place in Glasgow, Scotland. We have seen representation at the highest levels and our leaders such as the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley having a massive impact. The theme of climate financing has been a constant, alongside the acute climate-induced challenges faced by small islands like ours in the Caribbean. Even if some of the promised but elusive financing becomes available, key questions remain unanswered: Who will implement? Who are the essential partners? One key variable is the role of innovation, especially as it relates to the private sector which has been insufficiently emphasised. We in the Caribbean cannot undertake effective climate action and a green economy transition without partnering with an innovative private sector.

At this crucial time and now more than ever we need to nurture innovation in the Caribbean private sector for a green economy transition which will also create jobs and opportunity for our people. Innovation is vital since it also drives productivity and competitiveness, two areas where we need to do much better. Indeed, the ability to develop new products and services, develop and enter new markets and alter internal routines has always been at the core of entrepreneurial success.

Given the importance of innovation, how are we doing as a Caribbean? The World Intellectual Property Organization’s Global Innovation Index (GII) ranks the innovation ecosystem performance of 132 economies and provides a useful perspective. The top 15 ranked countries are predominantly developed countries, except for Singapore and China. The only countries ranked from the Caribbean Community and the Dominican Republic also known as the CARIFORJM Caribbean are Jamaica, Dominican Republic and Trinidad and Tobago, which were ranked at 74, 93, and 97 respectively. Given that those that are on the list are in the bottom half of the 132 ranked countries, there is much room for improvement to help our private sector become more innovative. This in turn will help fast-track a green economy transition creating jobs and opportunity for our people.

A useful start will be to focus on a few high priorities starting with investment in research and development. We need to strive to improve the region’s innovation performance. The data is sparse, but it is evident our region underperforms compared to other parts of the world. During the period from 2008 to 2018, Latin America and the Caribbean’s combined expenditure on research and development as a percentage of GDP averaged 0.71%, according to the World Bank. By comparison, developed countries invested 2.41% of GDP in this important area. More specifically in terms of our Region, Trinidad and Tobago which is one of the largest economies spends just 0.06% of GDP on research and development, which though perhaps is one of the highest in the Region, is still inadequate for these times. Unless the entire Region makes a bigger commitment, we will continue to lag.

We also need to embrace technology where our micro, small and medium-sized enterprises are left behind to enable them to become greener and also take advantage of new opportunities. To address this, we must seize the opportunity to leverage the upswing of technologies and industries of the future such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain technology, digital platforms and cloud computing. These technologies and others have the potential to radically transform existing enterprises and create new ones including precision agriculture and generating new opportunities for the services sector in areas such as the business of music.

In fact, these kinds of technologies have cross-sectoral applicability and for this reason, they have the potential to reshape energy systems through the integration of distributed, low-carbon energy generation and new demand-side energy management services. At the same time, another key technological shift is taking place is more efficient energy systems, as countries all over the world contend with the necessity of low-carbon energy transition. The steady march of environmental, social and governance considerations as a strategic priority for enterprises is causing sustainability to be increasingly prioritised. This is expected to be further heightened in the post COP26 period.

Role of Caribbean Export

Given the imperative of a green economy transition and the critical role of the private sector in leading the charge, we at the Caribbean Export Development Agency are already supporting regional businesses in this pathway. For example, our work in the area of investment promotion focuses on attracting investors to in the green economy including the renewables sector. Our effort in agriculture is geared to leveraging technology into agriculture or AgTech to boost food security, taking into consideration the importance of climate resilient agriculture.

In the direct support we provide to firms, technical and policy support through innovation mechanisms to drive energy efficiency continues to be a signature service. We recognise that we need to provide support, where it matters, on the ground and at the level of the firm. Consequently, with the support of the European Union we have provided over Euros 12.8 million in grant financing in areas that support and foster innovation and green economy transition such as digitalisation of business, research and development and renewable energy.

Finally, we recognise that globally consumers are demanding products that are climate friendly and meet sustainability criteria. This is precisely why with the United Nations International Trade Centre, we have established a “Green to Compete” hub here in the Caribbean, which is one of seven established globally. In the initial pilot phase, we are working with firms in Barbados, Guyana and St Lucia to help them develop and implement sustainability strategies which can enhance their competitiveness in global supply chains. These strategies will involve resource efficiency, voluntary sustainability standards, climate resilience, access to green finance and international marketing. Moreover, we will leverage our ecosystem of partners to connect firms to a full range of services which support the implementation of those business strategies, with the ultimate aim of connecting them to markets. We believe this is a model for the future since it is about developing and branding a premium product for a premium market at a premium price.

Looking ahead, we recognise that much more must be done to help our private sector leverage innovation to fast track a green economy transition and build a climate resilient Caribbean. Whereas finance will continue to be important, innovation is vital and can be advanced by a Regional Innovation Facility specifically geared for the sector. We are willing to work with all partners to advance this agenda and build a truly climate resilient Caribbean, whilst creating jobs and opportunity for our people. Quite simply, too much is at stake and failure is not an option.

Making the UK-CARIFORUM EPA Work for Post-Brexit UK-CARIFORUM Trade

As of January 1, 2021, the formal trading relationship between the United Kingdom (UK) and CARIFORUM countries (with the exception of Haiti) is no longer governed by the Economic Partnership Agreement signed between the European Union (EU) and CARIFORUM countries (EU-CARIFORUM EPA) in 2008. Instead, while that agreement continues between the remaining EU-27 and CARIFORUM countries, the new UK-CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement (UK-CARIFORUM EPA) provisionally applies to UK-CARIFORUM trade until ratified by all parties. As with any trade agreement, market access on paper is of little value unless firms can convert it into meaningful market penetration in practice. This article explores how CARIFORUM countries could make this ‘new’ agreement work for deepening UK-CARIFORUM trade.


The UK-CARIFORUM EPA provides duty-free and quota-free access for goods, preferential access for services providers and investors, among other things. The novelty of the agreement applies more so to its date of signature than its substance as it merely replicates or ‘rolls over’, to the extent practicable, the provisions of the EU-CARIFORUM EPA to ensure trade continuity between the UK and CARIFORUM countries once the former had left the EU. As such, the market access conditions CARIFORUM exporters face in the UK market, and vice versa, remain unchanged in substance from what obtained under the EU-CARIFORUM EPA.

Preserving post-Brexit access to the UK market for CARIFORUM exporters was critical for the region as the UK was a major export market within the EU for many CARIFORUM countries and the major destination for certain CARIFORUM exports like rum, bananas and sugar. It is also an export destination for Trinidad’s methanol and liquified natural gas (LNG) exports. The UK-based Caribbean diaspora community is a key demandeur of CARIFORUM products such as rum, sauces, seasonings, biscuits and other ‘nostalgic’ goods.

The Ex Post Evaluation of the EU-CARIFORUM EPA Report released by the European Commission last year noted that many CARIFORUM producers also used the UK as an entry point into the EU market and identified the Caribbean diaspora in the UK as ‘a key facilitating factor’. Using the UK as an entry point might no longer be that attractive an option for CARIFORUM firms given that the UK is no longer within the EU single market or customs union.

Overall, however, trade between the UK and CARIFORUM has been on a general decline, according to data from the UK Office of National Statistics. Over the twenty year period between 2000 and 2020, UK imports from CARIFORUM countries declined as a percentage of UK imports, except for a spike to 0.53% in 2009, immediately after the signing of the EU-CARIFORUM EPA. In spite of this, the UK remains a major source market for tourist arrivals to the region, and for some CARIFORUM countries like Barbados, the main source for FDI in the tourism sector and second home market.

Deepening UK-CARIFORUM relations

Export diversification is one of the strategies identified by CARIFORUM countries as part of their post-COVID-19 recovery efforts. In light of the above, there is clearly scope for both expanding and diversifying current UK-CARIFORUM trade away from mostly low-value added products and into higher value manufactured goods and high value-added services. There is scope for encouraging greater UK FDI into the region outside of traditional sectors like tourism and real estate and into renewable energy, education, health and other sectors linked to the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs). The UK-CARIFORUM EPA’s Protocol III on Cultural Cooperation (the Cultural Protocol) which replicates that of the EU-CARIFORUM EPA, can be leveraged to promote greater UK-CARIFORUM trade in the creative industries through, for instance, joint film and music productions.

Deepening UK-CARIFORUM relations appears to be a goal for both regions as evinced by the Action Plan and communique released from the Tenth UK-Caribbean Ministerial Forum held in March 2021. Trade and commercial relations was one of the six substantive areas of joint action identified. Among the goals under that action item are the establishment of a UK-Caribbean Business-to-Business (B2B) Roundtable, commitment to identify opportunities to use the significant capacity available for export credit financing support to the region through UK Export Finance (UKEF), to promote and expand UK-Caribbean trade flows and to further reduce market access barriers for one another’s exporters. In addition to this, the UK also expanded its diplomatic footprint in the Caribbean by opening new permanent missions in some CARIFORUM Member States in 2018 and in 2020 appointed a Trade Envoy for the twelve Commonwealth Caribbean countries.


In addition to the commitments made under the Action Plan, there are some concrete ways in which the UK-CARIFORUM EPA can be utilized to deepen post-Brexit UK-CARIFORUM trade and investment. These include the following:

  1. Raise awareness by both CARIFORUM and UK firms of the market access opportunities under the UK-CARIFORUM EPA. Many firms remain unaware of these opportunities;
  2. Accelerate the establishment of the proposed UK-Caribbean B2B Roundtable and set concrete deliverables for what this roundtable will seek to achieve;
  3. Promote greater ties between CARIFORUM-UK businesses to encourage greater information-sharing on market and investment opportunities. This could be done, for example, through the B2B Roundtable, as well as through formalized links between the Chambers of Commerce and industry associations of the region and in the UK;
  4. Make greater use of existing institutions like the Caribbean Chamber of Commerce in Europe, whose remit also extends to the UK, to promote greater links between UK and CARIFORUM-based businesses;
  5. Explore ways in which the region, including regional institutions like Caribbean Export, can work more closely with the the UK Trade Envoy for the Caribbean, the UK missions, UK Export Finance (UKEF) and other trade-related UK agencies to promote greater UK-CARIFORUM trade;
  6. Conduct a study to determine the current barriers impacting CARIFORUM businesses seeking to access the UK market and propose solutions for how these could be overcome to promote greater CARIFORUM-UK trade;
  7. Conduct a study on the ways in which the new EU-UK trading relationship impacts the use of the UK as an entry point to the EU and ways in which this could be mitigated;
  8. Better leverage the UK-based Caribbean diaspora for enhancing UK-CARIFORUM trade and investment. Aside from the usual benefits of remittances and diaspora FDI, the diaspora could also provide market intelligence, business mentoring and coaching for CARIFORUM entrepreneurs interested in trading with UK firms or establishing a presence in the UK;
  9. Make greater use of economic diplomacy by leveraging CARIFORUM countries’ diplomatic missions in the UK to identify opportunities for UK-CARIFORUM trade and investment;
  10. Accelerate the establishment of the joint institutions provided for under the UK-CARIFORUM EPA.

Uncovering Opportunities Created by a Pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly changed the world as we know it. Job losses, declining revenue and closed market opportunities have become the reality of firms around the world. Caribbean companies, not exempted, now have a new storm to weather. One silver lining, however, is that the global pandemic has created new business opportunities. With changing customer behaviours and needs, firms must now examine new market trends to strategically re-position themselves to meet them.

Hygiene and Sanitization Products

With heightened consumer demand for clean and safe spaces, opportunities will continue to abound in the hygiene/sanitization sector. It is no surprise that manufacturers of cleaning products have witnessed a spike in sales. The CEO of Clorox has reported a 500% increase[1] in demand since the start of the year, and we recently heard how Trinidad and Tobago based manufacturer Chem Clean has also experienced an upsurge as households and businesses settle into new disinfecting routines.

yaphene hand sanitizer

However, these opportunities are not restricted solely to chemical producers. For example, Caribbean Health and Wellness firms like Sugartown Organics in St. Kitts & Nevis and numerous regional distilleries- members of WIRSPA have already begun to produce hand sanitizers. Experts agree that the tourism industry, upon which many CARIFORUM countries depend, will be under pressure to deliver a beyond clean experience thereby amplifying this opportunity.

Information Technology Services

Covid-19 has forced consumers online with telecommuting, virtual classes, and online shopping becoming the new norm. This presents the opportune time for service providers like IT professionals, digital marketers, and app developers to support firms in strengthening their online presence which can positively impact exports. Remote working will push companies to invest more in IT, cloud, and cyber-security services. Opportunities also exist for Caribbean app developers to create apps that help businesses to fulfill delivery orders much like Instacart and UberEats does for the American market.  Across the region there are several examples of companies offering digital payment options such as Trinidadian firm WiPay, which recently launched in Barbados and Barbadian company, mMoney both of which help companies and customers with cashless transfers.

ecommerce webinar

The CEO of IT giant, Box, recently stated in an interview that the amount of business transformation from a technology standpoint over the next few months will be completely unparalleled to any other time in history.[2] Could Amazon’s planned workforce expansion (100,000 new hires) during this period indicate that this trend is likely to continue?[3]  Despite the persistent challenges that have slowed down the development of e-commerce in the Caribbean, the expansion of WiPay outside of Trinidad and Tobago during Covid-19 shows that the tide may be turning. 

Immunity Boosting Foods, Beverages and Nutraceuticals

honey stix coldflu

Caribbean agro-processors offering natural immunity boosting products can benefit during the pandemic.  Widely accepted Caribbean staples like ginger and turmeric are some of the foods that are known to strengthen immunity. Jamaica is revitalising its ginger industry valued at just under $1 million USD in 2019 while CARICOM trade in turmeric is valued at approximately $1.07 million USD[4]. As the world grapples with staying healthy, there are sectoral opportunities for value-added products. For example, Ecofarms in Jamaica has since launched its line of Cold & Flu HoneyStix. Nutmeg and cinnamon, like honey, supports healthy immune systems which could be beneficial for Caribbean spice producers.

Similarly, the nutraceuticals industry which is projected to experience growth to approximately $317.3 billion USD by 2024 also offers opportunities.[5] The region has successfully demonstrated its competence to excel in this sector as evidenced through experts like entrepreneur Dr. Henry Lowe (Flavocure Biotech) who has several US patents based on his research into high value health solutions using indigenous plants.

Film & Music

For firms in the creative industries, global trends are in their favour. Although faced with significant revenue declines due to cancellation of live performances and screenings, the increased interest in online consumption for both music and film is a positive note-worthy trend. Globally, audio-visual streaming increased by 14.5% during early March when several countries began their lock downs.[6] Netflix has seen their subscription rate more than double – moving from its forecast of 7 million new paid subscribers for Q1 to 15.8 million. [7]Membership on Twitch has also grown by 31% as has digital radio services, e.g. BBC’s radio streaming increased by 18%. [8]With more persons confined to their homes and the mental health benefits that music and film brings, Caribbean producers can use this time to share their content, expand their following and connect with diverse audiences on interactive platforms. Recently the first reggae Verzuz battle between Beenie Man and Bounty Killer on Instagram Live recorded close to 500,000 live viewers and a suite of A-list celebrities tuned in to watch. Similarly, a Los Angeles based DJ, @dnice hosted a DJ party in his kitchen with over 100,000 live viewers including Ellen Degeneres, Oprah, and Michelle Obama. This event increased his following from 200,000 to its current 1.8 million followers.[9]

How to find the opportunities

The opportunities available will be different depending on your own situation.  Here are three strategies outlined by the MIT Sloan Management Review to help you identify yours:

1. Same Product Different Channel (Online): You may want to digitise your product or deliver your service online just like the example of DJ @dnice or the reggae challenge shared above. Nike has begun to engage customers with online workouts resulting in a 35% upshot in sales[10] while companies in Napa Valley are offering online taste testing lessons. What would applying this strategy look like for your company? If regional agro-processors offered an online cooking experience using their products, they could drive sales during or after the online event. The opportunities to offer virtual services or events to customers are endless and just takes a little imagination.

2. Same Infrastructure Different Product: While the pandemic has brought some businesses (E.g. hotels and guest houses) to a standstill, others have experienced an increase in demand. Can your company re-purpose your existing infrastructure to produce or sell high demand products and services? In Barbados, some hardware stores have begun to sell groceries. With many parents balancing remote work and home-schooling, some guest houses in Jamaica have offered their rooms to those who want a few hours of uninterrupted work time. So how can you offer a new product or service to customers using your existing arrangement?

3. Same Product Different Infrastructure: Some firms may find themselves with the problem of struggling to meet the demand for their products and services and need to increase production or distribution capacity. Globally, firms have sought to bridge the gap through creative partnerships. To meet the spike in online shopping demand, Amazon has partnered with Lyft to temporarily hire workers as the demand for ride share has plummeted. With increased unemployment, firms now have a larger labour pool to train and deploy even if temporarily. During this period of uncertainty, adopt a proactive approach. Assess market changes to adjust your products, services, and strategies to meet current and future customer needs. What will you need to do differently to take advantage of some of the emerging opportunities and how can you apply the strategies shared to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 on your business?











Rodney’s Wellness Retreat – From Battling Hurricane Maria to COVID-19

Tourism is an industry which is susceptible to external shocks. None know this better than the owners of Rodney’s Wellness Retreat (RWR), a nature lovers’ sanctuary tucked away on 4.6 acres of an ex-lime farming estate just outside the idyllic village of Soufriere, Dominica.

Managing Director of the Retreat, Lucilla Lewis said the former lime estate was once the economic lifeblood of its neighboring villages, but that came to an abrupt halt with the passage of Hurricane Maria in September 2017 and again in 2020, now that the world is battling the highly contagious COVID-19.

Having successfully rebuilt after the category five hurricane, Ms. Lewis believes RWR will also bounce back from the fallout caused by the pandemic.

Rebuilding after Hurricane Maria

From June 1st to November 30th annually, hurricanes plague the Caribbean.  They lash the tiny islands with catastrophic rains and winds, often leaving a trail of death and devastation.

In 2017, Ms. Lewis and her siblings, who manage RWR, faced this reality.  In an effort to rebuild and see the area thriving again, they opted to take a Direct Assistance Grant from the Caribbean Export Development Agency

Ms. Lewis credits the grant with enhancing the resilience of the company. According to her it ensured that prior to COVID-19, RWR could offer the unique services of its Big Banana Campground, Kanawa Restaurant and Mayan Bar, CarRod’s Gardens and CarRod’s Cottages.

Grant usage

Our reconstruction plan included rainwater harvesting, solar energy supply, and the composting of waste. With grant finance support from Caribbean Export, a solar energy system was commissioned at RWR in March of 2019.  Since then one of our significant recurrent expense items the monthly electricity bill paid to Dominica Electricity Services (DOMLEC) – has been eliminated! The augurs well for business viability going forward, she said.

Focus on rebuilding and sharing the wealth

The owners implemented a procurement policy aimed at boosting the economic fortunes of the surrounding districts. RWR procured goods and services, such as vegetables, fruits, fresh fish, hair braiding and small boat rowing, from nearby villages before going elsewhere.

RWR, though a privately-owned business, is driven by a vision to restore economic viability to the Parish of St Mark, while generating a fair return on investments to its owners, the Managing Director said.

Packaging RWR’s tourism product

Ms. Lewis added that RWR had also successfully packaged the story of the rise and decline of the economic fortunes of the area, which is linked to the rise and fall of the Dominican lime industry, as one of its most popular tours offered to visitors.

This riveting story includes the decision by Ms. Lewis’ father, the late Rodney Lewis, a tropical agriculturalist by profession, to re-cultivate the land and to produce a variety of crops, including limes, as his retirement hobby.  Lucilla Lewis pointed out that the Direct Assistance Grant was instrumental in expanding her father’s vision. 

She noted that prior to the passage of Hurricane Maria, the Caribbean Export Development Agency had assisted the business with training and networking opportunities.  She added that with the grant, they were able to implement a Quick Book interfaced Point of Sale system, which improved their system of operation. The operational efficiency enhancements which resulted at RWR were remarkable! she enthused. 

RWR expects strong recovery after combating COVID-19

Once again in 2020, the operations of RWR were brought to a screeching halt but this time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The farm-converted-tourism enterprise began to feel the effects of the infectious virus when guests started to cancel their trips.

COVID-19 has left us with no income stream as we have been totally closed since March 12, the managing director revealed.

We were forced to close before the official closure of Dominica’s borders as most of our upcoming reservations were from Europe and with the soaring infection rates in European cities at the time, our would-be guests were very gracious to indicate that they were going to cancel, she said, adding that RWR was able to pay its staff for the entire month of March but could not for April.

During the downtime, Ms. Lewis and her siblings have been focusing on expanding the retreat’s cultivation of fruits and vegetables. RWR, which is a farm-to-table retreat, promotes the use of on-site products in its kitchen. So far, they have harvested sweet peppers, tomatoes, eggplants and fruits.

They also registered to participate in the Backyard Gardening project, a post COVID-19 food security adaptation strategy launched by the Government of Dominica.

While this program augurs well for self-sufficiency it may limit the scope for sale of excess production in the domestic market, she observed.

However, going forward Ms. Lewis anticipates a strong recovery after COVID-19. She said RWR intends to cater to the domestic market when local curfews and restrictions are lifted, before cautiously reopening to the world.      

RWR offers nature and green spaces away from the trodden path. Its uncrowded and has an open dining room and scope for setting up dining anywhere on the grounds. We expect strong recovery immediately after European travelers are comfortable with airline and destination safety protocols, but in the short to medium term, we plan to target regional markets, she said, pointing out that RWR will be upgrading its hygiene and cleaning procedures prior to reopening.

Having rebuilt after Hurricane Maria, and currently navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, Lucilla has learnt that patience is key to success. We have become more convinced that the RWR model, in terms of our product and service, is a winning one but it requires patience. We think that the offer will be in high demand in the post COVID tourism market, Ms. Lewis predicted.

Natural Skin, Body and Health

The demand for natural medicine in Europe has grown at a tremendous rate as Europeans becoming more and more conscious about their health and the quality of the goods they consume.

In 2017, the global nutraceuticals product market reached US$204 billion. With an abundance of medicinal plants, the Caribbean is ripe with natural remedies to supply the increase in demand for natural ingredients.

A common experience for many people living in the Caribbean and visitors is the irritating mosquito bite. It’s an unwanted experience of millions all over the world and with this desire to use natural remedies drove medical doctors Gayle Devaux-Segovia and Carlos Segovia to develop natural repellent prior to the birth of their first child. They wanted to make a natural insect repellent safe enough to use on a baby.

“When our son was born, we used the insect repellent on him and it worked very well. We got a lot of encouragement from people so in 1997 we formed a company called Natmed Ltd. We branded the product under Caribbean Blue Naturals and twenty years later, it is still one of our best sellers,” Dr. Gayle Devaux-Segovia explained.

Over the years, Dr. Gayle and her husband added more products to Caribbean Blue Naturals: deodorant, body spray, hand sanitizers and sun screen to list a few. They are all natural, cruelty-free, reef-safe, non-GMO, 100% biodegradable and mostly vegan as they use beeswax in their lip balm and candles.

Dr. Carlos Segovia said they source the majority of their ingredients locally. According to him, these ingredients included Saint Lucia cocoa, aloe vera, seaweed extract, nutmeg and other Caribbean spices. Our mission is to produce all natural products of the highest quality and make them affordable to the general public, he noted.

The Saint Lucian company will showcase its wide range of natural products at the 4th CARIFORUM-EU Business Forum organized by the Caribbean Export Development Agency in collaboration with the European Union and Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ).
Along with over 60 other Caribbean companies, the Business Forum enables buyers and consumers to meet suppliers and source products from the Caribbean over 3 days from 26th to the 28th September 2019 at the Union Halle, Frankfurt, Germany.

Barbados Fertility Centre Heads Off Global Competition in the Booming Infertility Treatment Market

The global fertility industry has seen robust year-on year growth as new advances in in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), and a steady increase in infertility rates, have shored up demand for assisted pregnancies. And while the United States and Europe still command the largest share of the industry, a small clinic in Barbados is heading off global competition to eke out a niche for itself with world-leading IVF success rates, and the unique value-added of Barbados’ tourism brand.
Formed in 2002, the Barbados Fertility Centre is a partnership between Barbadian doctor Juliet Skinner and Irish IVF nurse, Anna Hosford. The Centre became their joint vision following Skinner’s return to Barbados in 1998, where local infertility rates showed up an untapped market for IVF solutions.
Inevitably, the Centre’s ambitions were global. In an industry where one IVF unit typically serves a population of 750,000, the Barbados Fertility Centre has been outward looking from the outset. Today, it is a major lynchpin in Barbados’ medical tourism offering. By 2017, the Centre had facilitated thousands of pregnancies for clients in the Caribbean, the far East, Australia, the United States and Europe. “On any given day, our waiting room is like the United Nations,” BFC Chief Operations Officer, Rachel de Gale, told Caribbean Export’s Outlook.
Patients are drawn to the Centre’s high success rates — now at 67 per cent for women under-35 — and treatment costs that average around 40 per cent below that of fertility treatments in the United States. An aggressive marketing campaign in North America has paid dividends for the Centre, with 25% of its patients coming from the US, second only to the burgeoning Caribbean home market.

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Cultivating a Caribbean Specialty

The production of cacao is globally concentrated in the regions between 10 degrees north and 10 degrees south of the equator, namely Central and South America, West Africa and the Caribbean.
The Caribbean is held in high regard as a cacao-producing region because it yields a fine, aromatic bean. In fact, fine flavoured cacao accounts for only 5% of the world production and is concentrated in a few countries, one of which is Suriname.

It is the soil that determines the quality of the cacao bean and Suriname is perfectly positioned to generate nutrient rich soil for the native cacao tree to thrive from. The method of making Surinamese cacao, called skrati in Surinamese Creole language, has been used for centuries to produce cacao based products.

However, the skrati was losing interest among many of the natives when a young artist traveled to Suriname to complete a project and fell in love with the exotic plant and its qualities in 2005. Five years later, she set out to revive the tradition and with that Tan Bun Skrati was established. As a smallscale cacao enterprise, Tan Bun Skrati is a grower and processor of artisan cacao products such as tea, butter, chocolate bars, cupcakes, truffles and bonbons filled with the finest Surinamese fruit.

“The company really started as an art project, but I was so intrigued by the Surinamese cacao that I decided to explore the properties of the bean some more,” recalled Ellen Lem Ligteringen , Managing Director. “This is what motivated me to actually start to produce chocolate from the cacao.”
In the beginning there were a few challenges for the company as there were not many cacao trees available and the machines to process the bean were also inadequate. But as a sculptor, Ellen was able to make her own machines and with that the business started to develop.

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DJ Puffy: The Sound of Success

In the Caribbean, there is no shortage of talented DJs. Names like DJ Crown Prince from Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad’s DJ Private Ryan and Black Chiney from Jamaica, are known for their creative remixes and ability to push the conventional boundaries. Beyond this, Caribbean DJs are the ideal cultural ambassadors to serve on the front lines of the region’s mission of transporting its music to the world.

When thinking about ambassadors, one DJ that comes to mind is DJ Puffy, the 2016 Red Bull Thre3style World DJ Champion. Born Andre Curtis Parris, the Barbadian turntablist started DJ-ing as a hobby during his teens, but it is evident that music is a part of his DNA.

What started as a passionate adolescent pastime, eventually turned into a rewarding world-class career; one that has led to Puffy performing at parties attended by A-listers such as Rihanna and Amber Rose, and sharing the stage with Hed Kandi and Rick Ross among others. Puffy’s raw talent has propelled him into the global spotlight, but his success has not overshadowed his Caribbean influence. In fact, many will argue that staying true to his culture and background as an artist is what makes his sound so unique. Other influences include the likes of Ryan Leslie, Swizz Beatz, Machel Montano, Funkmaster Flex, Scratch Master, Private Ryan, DJ Crown Prince, Hypasounds, Peter Coppin, and DJ Jazzy Jeff.

“I’m influenced by everything around me. What defines a living organism is the fact that it’s extremely sensitive to changes or elements in its environment and I’m no different.”

This adaptability also fuels Puffy’s creativity. His music, much like his personal style, is somewhat of an evolution, and this creativity is instrumental to his craft. Puffy’s ability to connect with the crowd and the performer, and his knack for bringing the element of surprise to the set came to the fore during his run to the finals of the Red Bull Thre3style World DJ Championship in 2016. He entered the competition as a Wild Card, following encouragement from a fellow competitor and colleague, United Statesbased
DJ Trayze.

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