Market and Trade Data
Eastern Caribbean Food
Service Catches Tourism Wave
By Kay Logan
See also …
FAS Report C17001
United States exported about $304 million worth of food,
agricultural, and seafood products to the Eastern
Caribbean in calendar 2006. Consumer-oriented
agricultural products accounted for a little over half,
bulk products 27 percent, intermediate products 19
percent, and seafood products 2 percent. These imports
represent roughly a third of the market.
some domestic production, but the supply is insufficient
for island inhabitants and at the mercy of uncertain
weather, leaving residents to import food and
agricultural products valued at $995 million in 2005.
imports, the HRI (hotel, restaurant, and institutional)
sector buys 30-40 percent of the foods and beverages,
while the remainder goes to the retail sector.
Eastern Caribbean Nations Prospering
In 2006, the GDP (gross domestic product) of
the Eastern Caribbean nations ranged from
$29 million in Montserrat to almost $21
billion in Trinidad and Tobago. GDP real
growth rates ranged from 1 percent in
Montserrat to 10.2 percent in Anguilla.
Income levels ranged from $3,400 in the
developing island nations to as much as
$38,500 in the British Virgin Islands.
Tourism is the backbone of most of the
Eastern Caribbean economies, accounting for
half of the GDP in Antigua and Barbuda, and
the British Virgin Islands. In 2006, more
than 2.4 million overnight tourists visited
the region spending $2.7 billion, and
tourist arrivals are expected to increase
about 3 percent annually over the next
several years. European tourists account for
32 percent of the stays, followed closely by
the United States with 31 percent.
Agriculture accounts for just a small
percentage of income due to scarce arable
lands that produce mostly tropical fruits
and vegetables, spices, root crops, cocoa,
coffee, aloe vera, and cut flowers. Small
food processing industries throughout the
region process sauces, jams, jellies, fruit
nectars, rum, and other alcoholic beverages.
Larger food processors of meats and fish,
pasta, baked and confectionery items, dairy
products, fruits and vegetables, packaged
and convenience foods, wheat flour, and
edible oils and fats can be found on
Trinidad and Barbados.
Though tourism is the driving force, growth in financial
services and higher education institutions are also
growing island economies. Increased incomes and more
women entering the workforce are also increasing
transactions in the food service sector.
service sector was valued at $727.5 million in 2005,
with 85 percent of the establishments being independent
and chains making up the rest. The hotel food service
sector makes up about 65 percent of the total HRI
market, followed by restaurants at 33 percent, and
institutional trailing at 2 percent.
and Tobago’s food service sector accounted for 62
percent of sales in the Eastern Caribbean, followed by
Barbados’ 15 percent share. Together, the British Virgin
Islands, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and
Antigua and Barbuda accounted for 17 percent, while
Grenada, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla, and
Montserrat were responsible for the last 6 percent.
Size Affects Food Service Procurement
There is a range of procurement methods throughout the
islands. The nations of Trinidad and Tobago, the British
Virgin Islands, St. Lucia, and Barbados account for 63
percent of tourist accommodations in the Eastern
Caribbean and have the most large scale hotels and
resorts that directly import as much as 95 percent of
their food and beverage purchases from Florida-based
suppliers. Some of the larger independent restaurants
buy select food and beverage products directly from
Miami-based wholesalers who consolidate shipments. Small
islands close to Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, and St.
Thomas often buy from importers on those islands.
rest of the food service and retail sectors, wholesalers
and distributors serve as the principal intermediaries
between suppliers and buyers, with HRI establishments
buying about 70 percent of their food and beverage
products from importer/distributors, 15 percent from
local farmers and processors, 10 percent from local
retail outlets, and just 5 percent from direct imports.
distributors have retail outlets, or "cash vans," in the
smaller islands that sell to food service outlets. While
the larger islands import a full range of products, in
the smaller islands, imports consist mostly of dry
goods, with only a small quantity of fresh and frozen
Institutional Sector Small
The institutional food service sub-sector accounts for
less than 2 percent of the total HRI food service
sector. Governments usually award contracts for
distribution to hospitals, schools, and prisons. These
businesses tend to patronize mostly local farmers and
food processors, going to importers only occasionally.
For purposes of this article, Eastern
Caribbean island nations include Anguilla,
Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, the British
Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada,
Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia,
St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad
Based on United Nations Map No. 3977 Rev. 3,
islands have two unique niches worth checking out. The
yacht community usually obtains food provisions from
suppliers specializing in yacht provisioning and tends
to prefer imported brand name products. Catered meals
for land and offshore petroleum workers based in
Trinidad and Tobago also offer opportunities.
caterers still buy mostly from local suppliers, some
have begun importing foods and beverages directly from
These U.S. products stand to gain ground as tourism
continues to fuel food and beverage demand:
meats (fresh, chilled, frozen, processed, and
Fruit and vegetable juices
Fresh fruits and vegetables
Processed fruits and vegetables
and egg products
Wines and beer
is an agricultural assistant with the FAS Caribbean
Basin Agricultural Trade Office in Miami, FL. E-mail: