The Islamic Post Blog

Food Independence in the Dominican Republic by Khalida
December 1, 2008, 12:39 am
Filed under: December Volume 1 - 2008, Latino/Caribe | Tags:

By Noora Ahmad
& Raheemah Atif
Islamic Post Staff Writers

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported recently that harvests in Latin America and the Caribbean surpassed by 40 percent what is needed for the people of the region.
The Dominican Republic, however, wishes to compete with larger grain-exporting countries like Brazil and Argentina in becoming the breadbasket of the region.
The focus for the small nation, which shares half of what used to be known as the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, is on a variety of food items, instead of the overproduction of one or two main cash crops which has a tendency to destroy the soil and create an export tunnel, while the general populace remains without basic food items.
Currently, the Spanish-speaking island grows 85% of its own food. This is remarkable in an era when most Caribbean countries, and even nations in South America, must import food to meet the local demands. Dominicans grow a variety of fruits, vegetables, spices, and other foods; its people are not suffering the anguish of food shortages. With sugarcane being its most important cash crop, along with rice, coffee, corn, and tomatoes, the island’s farms also mass-produce sorghum, plantain, red and black beans, fragrant cilantro, onions, and garlic, along with cassava and sweet potatoes, and an extensive array of fruits such as passion fruit, bananas, tamarind, guava, and coconuts.
While other islands have allowed their markets to be flooded with food items that are less expensive than local production as part of free trade agreements, the Dominican Republic imports mainly to satisfy those of its nationals who, having lived in the United States or Europe, had become accustomed to northern brand names.
It is the local industry, however, that supplies the numerous tourism venues with the majority of its consumption demands, creating a robust commercial flow within the country.
In terms of exports, the  Dominican Republic has developed firm trade partners worldwide, with the United States, from which 75 percent of its export business is derived, and markets in Canada, Japan, and Western Europe where manufactured clothing, medical devices, nickel, sugar, coffee, cacao, and tobacco are traded.
The republic’s president, Leonel Fernandez, has turned the nation’s resources and attention toward increased food production beyond its current state by means of decreased production costs, and proliferation of modern technical expertise in growing methods and irrigation throughout the country. The government announced that it is offering farmers many incentives, including land for lease specifically for food production. One example of its bio-technical progress is the development of a fertilizer made from sugarcane that would drastically cut the escalating cost of (and dependence upon) petroleum-based fertilizers.
Dominican Republic’s prosperity has enabled it to be of assistance to its neighbors and even more distant countries that were seized by the waves of violent storms of the past year.  Shipments of food, building materials, and other supplies reached Cuba in the wake of hurricanes that ravaged the island, causing loss of lives, crops, and shelter for its citizens.  With much resolve, President Fernandez is vigorously leading the Dominican Republic towards an amplified role in commerce, economic development, and international fellowship.


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