The total acreage under organic production in CARICOM countries is low to non-existent compared to the rest of the world (see table), and this is a missed opportunity for the region. CARICOM appears to be the only organized group of countries in the world to have officially rejected organic agriculture, even as a possible policy option, yet the biggest market for organic produce by far is the United States – the back-door for the Caribbean region.
The scale of organic farming lends itself perfectly to our island economies. Of the top ten countries with the highest share of organic agricultural land, at least seven are small economies (the table below includes Belize and Jamaica for comparative purposes).
Table: Small Organic Economies
In Belize the Belize National Organic Council (BNOC) is made up principally of the private sector, the “MOA requests that the mandate comes from the private sector. Under the BNOC the Belize Organic Association is responsible for the certification of farms under local guidelines that are steering towards USDA Organic standards. The movement lacks resources which means everything is done on a volunteer basis.
Dominica initiated its Dominica Organic Agriculture Movement (DOAM) in 2006 in response to local interest and now has a small office and volunteer staff in Roseau, with 56 member farmers, 15 of whom are women. DOAM regards organic certification, including Participatory Guarantee Systems – which build on Dominican traditions of cooperative working – as a potential way to capitalise on that growth potential. A growing number of producers are interested in production practices that are more in harmony with the ways Dominicans used to traditionally work their land.
Guyana has no approved organic policy – although it’s certified organic exports are heart of palm and pineapple, and according to the National Agriculture Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) 28 pineapple farmers are certified organic.
Jamaica: JOAM was established in 2001 but is still not integrated into mainstream agricultural or food security policy. As a volunteer organisation it does not have the capacity to provide a service despite demand. JOAM now has some 300 members who come for advice, currently six members have organic certification, with another 18 applying for local inspection and certification.
These are just examples of the level of interest in each of these countries just waiting for a friendly organic environment in which to build their market niche! The time for organic farming is now, and with climate change this is even more so the case… but that will have to be another blog.