The wholesalers applauded the news of a link with the Dominican Republic and St. Maarten for the supply of food products. They expressed their interest in the idea and acknowledged that this route would indeed lower the purchasing cost to consumers. However, the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunication (TEATT) says the raised concerns over whether the DR could supply the volume needed for local consumption.
The main concern to Acting Minister of TEATT Omar Ottley when they met Monday was to discuss the proposed produce link. The meeting with the wholesalers was the second in a planned series of discussions with local stakeholders who produce locally or import agricultural products.
Minister Ottley has committed to addressing the wholesaler's concerns with his counterpart Minister in the Dominican Republic. He said, "The meeting was fruitful as no one objected to the initiative. Thanks to their valuable input, we have a few points which I intend to raise with the Agribusiness Board in the DR and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Economic Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Hugo Rivera Fernandez."
Concerns raised by the wholesalers included quality of produce and whether the DR would have the volume needed to satisfy the demand for fruits and vegetables in St. Maarten.
"These healthy discussions help to improve the level of our industry. I am convinced that open dialogue will arm the Ministry with sufficient information to put together a meaningful solution to the high cost of food products in St. Maarten, which is the ultimate goal," said Minister Ottley.
Shipping options and a consistent supply of products are also critical moving forward. The wholesalers requested that produce from the Dominican Republic be consolidated for each importer to have variety in one container. Doing so will help with the high shipping cost of importing goods to St. Maarten.
Currently, the Dominican Republic produces oranges, which they ship to Florida but not to St. Maarten. The consensus of the members of the wholesalers is that the DR has the best quality of Pineapples but must improve its consistency in supply.
They also recommend a price control on freight for products, reducing the retail cost of fruits and vegetables even when purchased in Miami.
When Minister Ottley meets again with his counterpart in the Dominican Republic to discuss supplying St. Maarten with fruits and vegetables, he will raise the concerns brought by the local importers. He intends to seek clarity on the potential of the DR to provide a consistent supply of products to the importers in St. Maarten.