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Caribbean farmers secure higher prices with GI certification

Trade and Marketing

Agricultural products in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago have been awarded geographical indications (GIs), which has seen farmers receiving as much as 200% price increases and 100% growth in demand.

In the English-speaking Caribbean, Jamaica was the first country to register a GI, which recognises niche products with a geographical origin, starting with Jamaica jerk in 2015, followed by Jamaica rum in 2016. Lilyclaire Bellamy, executive director of the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office, noted the creation of spin-off industries in Jamaica due to increasing demand from the protected international trademarks, “With the majority of raw materials used in Jamaica jerk being of local origin, this provides a guaranteed market for farmers. They are now more incentivised to grow, for example, peppers for registered jerk producers. In addition, GIs present a tourism opportunity for Jamaica to create visitor attractions to showcase the products.”

The Montserrat Cocoa Farmers’ Co-operative Society Limited (MCFCSL) in Trinidad and Tobago secured the country’s first GI in 2017. MCFCSL, which has 48 members, was established in 2010 and produces Trinitario cocoa in the Montserrat Hills region of central Trinidad. MCFCSL president Christopher Paul reflects on the impact of obtaining the GI for its cocoa, “As a direct result, we have been able to obtain a premium price on the local market and demand from our international buyers has increased by 100%. The GI shows that our beans are unique, guaranteeing buyers a fine flavour quality, which gives us greater leverage when negotiating, making us more competitive.”

In 2010, Café de Valdesia (CDV) coffee became the first GI for the Dominican Republic and, in 2016, it was recognised by the EU as the only coffee in the world, and the only agri-food product in Africa, the Americas and Oceania with a protected designation of origin (PDO). Although farmers had been exporting to Europe and the US since the mid-1850s, the Valdesia Coffee Regulating Council was established in 2009 to represent the CDV coffee producing region as the Council wanted to obtain the GI seal of quality to achieve greater international differentiation. Richard Decamps, CEO of the Council states that, “As a result of the GI process, we were able to expand our legal protection against unfair commercial competition, while achieving greater security for buyers with respect to product quality. We have also received higher valuations for green coffee (raw material) and processed coffee (toasted or ground).” Data from 2016/2017 shows the average export price for CDV certified green coffee was 205% higher than the New York Stock Exchange reference price. “The impact of the process has been positive in other ways, as the Council was able to raise more funds for projects to support farmers, one of which is maintaining five community nurseries to provide coffee plants to producers,” says Decamps.

Reflecting on the future, Bellamy says, “Geographical indication protection is in its infancy stage in the Caribbean, and we are now building our knowledge base. However the Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and CARIFORUM allows for an exchange of and recognition of GI lists, so perhaps this will help create a greater push within the region to certify its products.”

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