The Caribbean islands are mostly known throughout the world for their tourism industry, while their agricultural output has remained relatively unknown. Now, US import company Free World Trade wants to increase awareness about the Caribbean products they bring into the US. The company works together with the various ministries of agriculture on the islands and distribute through the entire US.
Year-round, organic production
The most important product for the company is ginger, with papaya being a close second. “The Caribbean produces a lot of different products, and the climate makes it possible to produce these products year-round. The temperatures in the Caribbean are stable throughout the year – the southern parts can be a bit cooler but the islands up to Puerto Rico stay warm throughout the year. There are also farmers who grow in greenhouses and who grow hydroponically. Ginger and papaya are both produced and supplied year-round.”
On top of being produced throughout the year, the production in the Caribbean is also all organic, Francis shares. “Due to the soil and the climate, we haven’t found it necessary to use any of the products that would classify the production as conventional. It’s grown completely naturally, that’s just the best way to grow the products in the Caribbean.”
High demand in market
Prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis, the US-China trade war was limiting the ginger supplies entering the US. “Because of this, the Caribbean increased its production so that they could help supply the market during these times. The Caribbean is logistically a lot more efficient than China for getting products to the US. At least two of the islands have a production capacity of 100 metric tons and with solid contracts that amount can be increased even more,” says Francis.
Now, after the COVID-19 outbreak worldwide, the demand for ginger has increased even more. “This is because China wasn’t able to supply it for a while but also because of the health benefits of the ginger that are making people want to consume it during these times. The pricing has doubled and, in some places, even tripled when it comes to retail. But most people don’t usually consider the Caribbean as a supplier of ginger. It can be produced across 10 to 15 islands simultaneously and we are working to offer competitive pricing on the ginger so that we can help put the Caribbean ginger on the map,” Francis explains.
He continues: “The growers are willing to supply the ginger at lower prices, because we’ve only just started our exports to the US and Canada. We are working to make the Caribbean more relevant and noticeable – the production there is reliable and sustainable, and we want to help people realize this. In the Caribbean, they are working to shift the economy from being based mostly on tourism to becoming more based on agriculture, so the volumes will only increase in the future. We are looking for partners to supply any US or Canadian retailer, or wholesaler.”
While some Caribbean islands closed their ports to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, fortunately the primary sourcing islands for Free World Trade have kept their ports open. “Several other ports will be reopened by May 15th,” Francis says.
Looking for more markets to enter
Free World Trade was established in 2011 with operations in Delaware and South Carolina. The company has been cultivating their relationships with the Caribbean farmers these past years, visiting the islands to help develop their relationships and to ensure that the product is produced according to the highest standards. While the company currently works to import the product into North America, they have the ability to bring the Caribbean product throughout the world and are looking to expand into Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.