Cocoa, sugar, coffee – these are among the most popular export commodities of the Dominican Republic. We talked with Guillermo Contreras, Operations Manager at the Dominican Tropical Fruits company, about the merits of fruits and vegetables grown in this Caribbean country and how the Brexit announcement has impacted their business.
Could you tell us a little about the company you work for?
I work for the Dominican Tropical Fruits company. We grow mangoes for export to Europe. We currently have some 300 hectares in cultivation, and annually we provide around 300 containers of mangoes to the whole of Europe, with England and the Netherlands as the primary distribution centers.
How does the impending Brexit affect your business?
Since the referendum, we’ve been in regular contact with our customers to understand the impact it could have on sales. Last year, the British pound’s decrease in value already affected our overall sales, quite substantially in fact. We have to see how our exports will develop in the future, now that the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union is more or less final.
As a leading producer in the Dominican Republic, what is your vision of how agriculture needs to develop in your country?
The Dominican Republic has a great deal of potential; it has the right conditions for growing many fruits and vegetables. As a producer, I feel we need to be more focused on technology and, above all, in line with market demands so we can sell our products in any market. I’m convinced that our fresh produce can compete with products from anywhere else in the world.
Guillermo Contreras, Operations Manager at the Dominican Tropical Fruits company
What have been your main challenges in terms of production?
We started off as a small producer and we’ve continued to grow little by little, and the challenge has always been to keep up with the requirements of the market. We’re currently working on making investments and on improving productivity and quality. We want to make our farms more efficient in terms of energy, water, and fertilization, as well as sanitary filtration and labor. All so we can supply a high-quality product at a competitive price.
Has there been any particular aspect that was especially difficult for you in obtaining certifications?
In this market, certification is basically everything. We’ve had to go through the whole process of getting certified, making sure that our operations meet all of the requirements. At first, we started with GLOBALG.A.P. certification, then we also implemented Tesco, among others; and after that, there were the social responsibility certifications. Long story short: we’ve always had to work hard to keep up with these demands, but it allows us to keep distributing our products in the best markets.
What are your thoughts on the trend of using biological products in combination with chemicals, or the biological farming trend in general?
We’ve been working with biological products for some years now, and I see them as a tool that helps balance out the impact of farming and decrease chemical use. I think they’re a good tool and that they need to keep being developed and encouraged.
What would you say are the benefits of working with a company such as Bayer?
Working with a global company such as Bayer can help us improve in different areas. I think that the Food Chain Partnership program can help us have more efficient and effective procedures that meet safety requirements in the market. Another benefit of this partnership is having better-trained personnel in all areas of production; experts from Bayer have assisted our growers in the field and our workers during packaging and shipping. And I’m sure they can support us in implementing new technologies coming to market.
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