DFP political leader Kent Vital
DFP political leader Kent Vital

Last week we started our investigation of potential investment opportunities in Dominica by first considering the broad areas where we believe our natural environment gives us the opportunity to supply goods and services to the rest of the world. We noted that these are often areas in which we do produce, but we are not adequately exploiting export opportunities. Or they may be areas in which we are not internationally competitive but can so become. We already covered one broad area – tourism, and in this article focus on a second key area – agri-business.

Our parents and grand-parents consumed much of what they grew and this combined with the pristine nature of the natural environment, translated into many persons living long lives. Much of these locally grown foods were organic. Add to this the pure (untreated) water drank by our people! Life expectancy for Dominica is higher than all other Caribbean countries save Cuba. We are comparing well with developed countries on that score notwithstanding our lower level of economic development. There is clearly something special and different about Dominica. But that seems to me to be a traditional advantage that we should seek to package well and sell to the rest of the world through opportunities in agri-business and tourism! We have to be careful not to lose that advantage. For instance, the increased use of chemicals in agriculture is harming the health of our land and our people. Additionally, our people are consuming more processed products! We must therefore take thoughtful steps to reverse the abating of this traditional advantage and become a world leader for natural living and living long.

But based on our island's rich fertile soils, abundance of rain, and the reputation as "the Nature Island of the Caribbean" there is an opportunity to develop thriving business in agriculture using our traditional advantage to differentiate our products or to tap into food trends.

A creative government of integrity will need to engage in developing adequate plans to optimally develop this sector including developing approaches for securing investments, partnering with strategic interests, adequately organising and marketing the industry, transportation to market, research and development and getting our young people to embrace agri-business. The Dominica Freedom Party will champion such efforts.

Our nation must have a big vision and tap into the skillsets of our people wherever they are in the world in order to exploit the potential that exists in agri-business and tourism. We have to escape from a culture of poverty, rise above a passive service culture, walk away from an envious culture and a culture of corruption - all negative cultures that keep us from attaining our true potential. Instead we must promote and embrace positive cultures - a culture of entrepreneurship, a dream culture and a commonwealth culture. In another article I will expound on the attributes of these economic cultures.

But if our dreams are big enough, we can produce organic and wholesome products targeted at specialty markets and spurred by global trends in health consciousness. Within that sphere, there is room for operations in several sub-areas. There is the potential to get into the production of health foods or "power" foods that could include cassava flour (meal), sweet potato flour, pumpkin flour, avocado paste and other avocado-based products, among other plant extracts. There are also opportunities to increase the export of traditional Caribbean foods. Fresh cut flowers and foliage; fresh organic fruit juices for local consumption as well as export; exotic wines, jams, jellies, chutneys and condiments, cereals and snacks including plantain chips and other traditional sweet treats; herbal teas, coffee and specialty chocolates – are other potential production possibilities.

Agricultural tourism encompassing guest accommodation in organic farm settings, providing guest access to farm produce and allowing their leisurely involvement in farm activity, is another area that can be delved into. There is also potential for heath tourism that could include natural food treatment, herbal remedies, and providing treatment in a pristine natural setting combined with relaxation.

Potential also exist in the production of natural-based beauty products to include soaps, lotions, body rubs, exotic oils, fragrances and aftershaves. There is also possibility to do much better in the production of natural-based home products such as straw mats, baskets and exotic products for practical and ornamental use – including for use as home furniture, fittings and furnishings. Greater creativity and innovation are required in these areas.

The above is not just wishful thinking as there are already bright sparks with respect to some products that we need to fan into a huge fire! Maybe we may not achieve significant production in all the areas, but we can transform our economic fortunes if we dare to dream big, be creative, build on our traditional advantages and replace the ineptitude of the Roosevelt Skerrit-led administration.

In coming articles, we will continue with other questions as we investigate potential areas for investment in Dominica beyond the areas that our natural environment lends itself to.

Kent Vital

Political Leader

Dominica Freedom Party.