He casabe, of Taíno heritage, is made with cassava and allows people to take care of their health as it is a gluten-free product. The owner of Casabi Busen, Sharon Sánchez, indicates that the prices of the products range from RD$50 to RD$180.
“We have a cassava crop, but for the item to be ready it takes nine months and right now we have a shortage, so we have to buy a quintal for RD$2,000,” explained the executive. She is one of the 50 stands participating in the fair Agrifood 2023.
This activity arises with the purpose of increasing the country’s agricultural exports and ensuring that agricultural producers establish business contacts with international buyers.
The Dominican Republic exported a value of US$3,961.5 million during January-April 2023 for the sale to the foreign market of 97 chapters ranging from agriculture, manufacturing to industrial products.
The statistics of the General Directorate of Customs (DGA) indicate that 63.2% exported was through the free zone regime (US$2,507.6 million), followed by 33.9% in national (US$1,344.7 million). 2.7% went through the “other” regime with US$109 million.
According to the export manager of the Export and Investment Center of the Dominican Republic (ProDominican), Jaime Licairac, the fair provides for 1,300 business meetings and brings 170 international buyers to 160 exporters in a networking format, an action that shows that Dominican products are in the main international markets.
He indicated that more than 30 foreign visitors who seek to know agri-food products. “Our main business partner is USAbut we have buyers of Central America and South America, even buyers from Slovakia, which is a market that we can capture in the medium term”, he assured.
Organic products add value to consumers, since they guarantee that the food They are harvested under sustainability parameters.
The executive director of the Dominican Association of Banana Producers (Adobanano), Martín Peña, maintained that the main challenge is to reduce the production costs and to increase productivity, which will make it possible to guarantee the sustainability of the organic banana industry.
“Production costs have increased and the rise in freight costs have affected the sector. The challenge is to use chemical-free product inputs and to guarantee during the process that they are free of substances”, he explained.
Peña noted that 60% are small and medium agricultural producers, which guarantees that the agricultural sector is sustainable and healthy for human consumption.
According to the executive, production costs are higher in organic bananas, due to the employability of more labor that avoids the use of agrochemicals.
“I can produce three boxes per task of a conventional banana, but in organic bananas it decreases to 1.5 or 1.8 boxes,” he clarified. The Ministry of Agriculture records that during 2022 exports of 204,735 metric tons of organic bananas generated foreign currency amounting to RD$124.2 million.
This fair is a space for the international promotion of Dominican food and beverages. Although the Dominican Republic seeks to expand and diversify the market, foreign companies see the country as an option to attract a new market niche. This was explained by the Jamaican Stephanie Mahfood, who seeks to hold networking sessions.
“We have varieties of tea, fish soup and other foods such as pumpkins, sardines and ginger, Jamaican-style hot chocolate and coconut… We are looking for a distributor in the Dominican Republic to enter a new niche,” he said.
This attractive investment is consolidated with data from the Dominican Central Bank (BC), which indicates that nations such as Grand Cayman reported foreign direct investment of US$8.9 million in 2022. This is followed by Colombia (US$10.3 million), Panama (US$84.5 million), Venezuela (US$140.6 million), Brazil (US$109.5 million) and Virgin Islands (US$224.4 million).
Generating foreign exchange, creating jobs, diversifying and innovating are some of the benefits of the export sector. In addition, it allows other countries to provide and market products with the Dominican seal on international shelves.
However, finding a niche to meet the demand is key to achieving the desired success. This happened with Gomiagro, a microenterprise dedicated to the export of food.
“At the local level there are many distributors, instead of participating in satisfying a need that is already covered by a large sector, we decided to face the challenge of satisfying other happy foreign customers with our products,” said the company’s team.
Agriculture reports that the export of 1,613,250 metric tons (MT) of agricultural products generated income of RD$2,938.4 million in 2022, with August being the period with the highest value traded with RD$277.3 million for 143,506 MT. This is followed by March with RD$264.52 million and October with RD$262.4 million for 142,093 and 129,495 MT, respectively.
“A journey of flavors, it smells like banana and tastes like beetroot… It’s a difficult flavor to identify,” said a diner tasting the Pitahaya juice. Going from a fruit to derivatives is one of the objectives of the Pitahaya Cooperative, which offers added value to consumers.
From cheesecake to liqueurs, fruits offer the diversification of products such as soaps, scrubs, wines. The prices depend on the producer, but vary from RD$100 to RD$500, while a pound of pitahaya reaches RD$100 but the sale to the supermarket is RD$80.
“The market is easily saturated, so we have to look for alternatives to offer added value and that producers do not lose their production,” said the vice president of the Pitahaya Cooperative, Ricardo Concepción.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, 28,905 quintals of dragon fruit were registered in 2022, 289.2% more than the 7,425 quintals of 2021. This crop reports constant growth over the last five years. Between 2017 and 2020, production increased by 793%, going from 752 quintals to 6,721 quintals. In absolute terms, some 5,969 quintals more, which shows the interest of producers in this fruit.
Before reaching customs, the producers pack their products in corrugated cardboard boxes. The HUED cardboard box is an example of the company that supplies this item for products dedicated to selling in the international market.
The sales executive, Luz Álvarez, indicated that its main buyers are Puerto Rico, Jamaica and the Caribbean region. “Our cartonera works under sustainability parameters. We work with boxes for the export of bananas and vegetables and some for the local agro-industrial market”, she explained.
According to Alvarez, the boxes are worked from paper, corrugated and turned into cardboard ready to reach the final consumer.