Soaring food prices have led to a global food crisis with negative social and economic impacts in developing Caribbean countries. The development of the agri-food/product sector through processing technologies can be an impetus for economic growth. Technological issues extend well beyond production, process and equipment technologies, to processing and food ingredient technologies,distribution technology, biotechnology and information technology.This project’s goal was to strengthen value-addition capability and improve the food and nutrition situation in the Caribbean.
The specific objectives were to survey and report on agro-processing enterprises in the Caribbean which would assist in charting a three-year plan for adding value to local produce. A questionnaire was developed to target individuals from agro-processing industries. Data were obtained on the respondent’s affiliation, number of persons employed, the primary raw material and processed products utilised, processing methods, types of processed products, training, food analysis and labelling, knowledge on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), food regulation and legislation, marketing of the products and any recommended activities for food processing companies in the Caribbean.
Most agro-processing companies were small (6-20 employees), one was medium (130 employees) and two were large with over 350 employees. Consumers are demanding nutritious and healthy agro-processed products. They are demanding a wider range of convenient agro-processed products, which are flavourful and yet nutritious and health promoting, such as reduced sugar beverages, and products with low sodium, less saturated fat, whole wheat, and vegetarian and organic products.
Some of the recommendations for improving agro-processing were: improved cultivar varieties such as being resistant to diseases, contract farming to improve availability of local raw materials, inputs, traceability of raw materials, need for modern processing equipment such as automatic bottling, easy access to processing centres, adequate processing facilities, commercial settings for processing, better lay-out of processing operations, training in agro-processing, more quality analysis of products,improvement in quality standards, the expense of applying food safety management systems such as HACCP, food safety management standards such as ISO 22000 and more attractive terms in accessing finance to allow growth of small businesses. Training must be an integral part of a much more comprehensive programme of development.