Agriculture Imports into Dominica on the Rise as Poverty Escalates

| March 11, 2012

Dominica’s economy is in deep trouble a situation compounded by the odd behavior of some of the key players in the country and the even stranger actions of some members of the general public.

For years, Dominica a country blessed with immeasurable fertile soil has seen agriculture whittle away and with it the overall demise of the economy.

But it has not always been that way. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, steam vessels from the United States loaded with the country’s cocoa, oranges, mangos, vanilla, limes, molasses, coffee, grapefruits and other fresh fruit and vegetables plied their weekly trade.

By the 1980s, the dominance of limes and vanilla had given way to bananas. During that period and in the heyday of the banana industry in Dominica, more than US million flowed into the country financing an unprecedented level of wealth, particularly among the rural population.

However, starting at around 2000 an unprecedented level of decline in the agriculture sector had descended on the country. The situation was not helped by an administration convinced that agriculture was a thing of the past and that all the country’s eggs should be put into the basket of tourism.

Today, agriculture lands lie abandoned. The once proud farmers and descendants of farmers have left for destinations in St Maarten, Guadeloupe, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.

To add insult to injury, a country naturally gifted to be the bread basket of the Caribbean Region now prides itself on importing tomatoes, cabbage, carrots and other vegetables from the United States. Tilapia (fresh water fish) is imported worlds away from China.

Local businessmen anxious to make a buck ignore superior quality products from Dominica, supported by an increasingly poverty stricken population whose only demand is for cheap products. Dominica’s poverty rate has been estimated at close to 30 percent of the population.

The import of agriculture products have contributed to overall import levels of over US $ 200 million while exports are down to a devastating low of US $ 38 million in 2011. Fortunately for Dominica, its membership in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) and the high level of remittances from its displaced population has been able to sustain its currency and finance the high level of imports.

This seeming stability continues to mask the fact that the country is in deep economic trouble and that unless ways can be found to boost agriculture levels the poverty rate will only increase.

In the meantime, those facilitating the imports of agriculture from overseas should do well to bear in mind that lower prices in the short term is no substitute for sustaining the well being and livelihoods of those living on the margins of Dominican society.

Now is evidently the time to put measures in place to make local produce more competitive, save the agriculture sector and rescue the more than 70 percent of Dominica’s population that still relies on agriculture for their daily survival.


Category: Dominica News

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