Published on Agriculture & Food

How to strengthen agrologistics in Caribbean countries? The case of Curaçao

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Fruits and vegetable grown by local farmers in Curaçao. Fruits and vegetable grown by local farmers in Curaçao.

I want my food sold directly to the final client, in the local stores and restaurants in my country. This was the main motivation of the recent discussions with family farmers of fruits and vegetables in Curaçao, during a recent study.  

The discussions for the study were all about how to better serve the local market, selling directly to local consumers, supermarkets and convenience stores. Some farmers have established direct relations with local restaurants that serve dishes with local foods and ingredients. It is a win-win situation for the food consumers, farmers, restaurants and stores. 

Femi and Joshua, a couple who produce fresh fruits and vegetables, are an example of family farms in Curaçao linking their products directly to table, by selling both to local consumers and tourists. They market and sell their food through their own agro-tourism eatery, the local market and directly to local restaurants. 

They have produce over 15 different crops, based on organic, inter-cropping and crop rotation principles. They combine their food production and farm logistics tasks, with visitors’ farm tours, also providing technical advice to other farmers on sustainable agriculture practices. 

The logistics chain for getting this food to the market is short. Food gets delivered directly to the eatery, which adapts international dishes with locally grown ingredients according to the season, while other restaurants come and pick up the food products at the farm. 
On the other side of the same island, a group of family farmers have come together under a cooperative to aggregate their production. The cooperative reduces costs for sorting, cleaning and packing food products, and helps gaining bargaining power, volume and quality to sell to the local grocery stores and supermarkets. The cooperative is called Soltuna, and its farmers produce fruits and vegetables, which are then aggregated at the cooperative’s hub and delivered by truck directly to stores, travelling less than 15-30 km on average. This is a short distance compared to, for example, the average travel distance of 100 to 140 km for locally fresh food locally produced in Guatemala, or the 90 km in continental US. 

A third group of family farmers come together to integrate the food produced in their farms to sell in local convenient stores called “tokos”, learing about food safety compliance and reducing costs for transportation and marketing.

There are also agro-tech producers of hydroponic green leaves and aromatic plants for seasoning. In this case production takes place in a smaller space, and in certain cases is even watered by salty water that was unsalted by an osmosis machine. These green leaves and aromatic plants are sold to supermarkets, restaurants and hotels, with delivery to the final buyer in small trucks on the same day of harvest. 

In all of these cases, family farmers of Curaçao are trying to reduce the burden of getting their food products to the table, tackling head-on the agrologistic challenges and costs. 

But are these short supply chain circuits enough to make ends meet for these farmers? 

The work done by the World Bank team in Curaçao point out to several key constraints and opportunities to improve access to markets by family farmers, and thus farm incomes, including aggregation and distribution, increasing the local food supply going to the hotel, restaurant and catering sectors, and also to community networks. 
The areas of action include the following:

  1. Support family farmers who want to come together in associations and/or cooperatives to pool resources, expertise and achieve larger volumes for the procurement of inputs, post harvest management and quality control, selling of products and distribution, very much like Soltuna is doing.
  2. Enhance the processing and marketing capacity of locally grown products, like in the case of Femi and Joshua. 
  3. Improve integration between food producers, retail food sector such as in the case of “tokos”, and include direct to consumer sales. 

Addressing the barriers and opportunities for improving access to markets through agrologistic investments can go a long way in increasing the shelf life of fresh fruits and vegetables, reduce transaction costs and time  and allow for family farms to compete with imported products. 
The Caribbean islands have one of the highest logistics costs as shown by the table below. The indicator measures the time and cost, excluding tariffs, associated with three sets of procedures—documentary compliance, border compliance, and domestic transport—that take place during the process of exporting or importing goods.

Cost and time to import and export


Food production is challenging in the Caribbean due to a combination of scarce arable land, salty water, inclement weather and lack of agricultural workers.  But those farmers that do venture into production, face steep competition from food imports. Investing in agrologistics and access to markets can help farmers improve their competitive position, as well promoting local gastronomy ventures, creating jobs, improving food security , also the freshness and diversity of food products offered to locals and visitors. 

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