THE MEMBER STATES of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have never been major producers of milk and have imported substantial quantities of their dairy requirements.
However, there have been programmes in the major states to increase milk production. The main fresh milk producers in the Caribbean region are Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and the Dominican Republic.
The dairy industries of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago are organised around the multinational firm, Nestle Caribbean Ltd., headquartered in the Dominican Republic, whereas in Barbados, the industry is centered on a local firm, the Barbados Dairy Industries Limited (BDIL).
Domestic milk production in several major Caribbean states became closely linked to the Swiss company, Nestle, which introduced technologically advanced, consumer-ready milk packaging, most notably Tetra Pak packaging technology.
Nestle has subsidiaries in Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. In Trinidad and Tobago, the company also administers the state’s milk price support programme.
BDIL was established as a joint venture between the Government of Barbados, Northern Dairies of England, a Barbadian private enterprise and the New Zealand Dairy Board in 1966. Banks Holding Limited acquired the BDIL in 1997, making it a wholly local enterprise, and the lone dairy processing plant on the island.
The shortfall of local milk production in the Caribbean has traditionally been met through imports of milk powder and other processed forms of milk from the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Denmark, the United States of America as well as other countries.
In recent years, however, there have been increasing imports of liquid products including “fresh” ultra-heat treated milk and other milk drinks, aided in large measure by government policies to enhance access to “cheap foods”.
For Jamaica, the percentage change in milk imports is also highly influenced by the annual percentage in the price of whole. dry milk and for Trinidad and Tobago there is a weak influence of evaporated milk price on milk imports. Thus for Trinidad, Jamaica and Barbados, increased imported milk products are associated with increased household incomes in addition to trade liberalisation.
Many CARICOM countries still experience foreign exchange shortages and restrictions. A major area of foreign exchange outflows is in the importation of dairy products.
The results of this paper have shown very persistent downward trends in domestic milk production in these Caribbean states that may be very difficult to reverse. With the very significant relationship between per capita GDP and milk importation, economic problems lowering the per capita GDP of these countries can therefore cause a sharp fall-off in milk demand and importation, which may have severe impacts on the levels of food security of these countries, especially Jamaica.
The two countries influenced by the large multi-national firm Nestle (Trinidad and Jamaica) show a greater fall-off in milk production since 1990 than Barbados.
This situation has led to Barbados producing more milk than Trinidad and Tobago in the more recent years since 2007. The presence of this multinational firm thus may not have been of major benefit in recent years to the CARICOM dairy farmers, although the firm is supposed to provide a guaranteed market for farmers’ milk.
It is therefore highly recommended that attention be placed on policies to assist in the alleviation of farm level problems noted above, to assist in saving the dairy industry in the Caribbean and the livelihoods of thousands of small scale producers.
International Food and Agribusiness Management Review.