Investment opportunity

Traditional financial institutions in the region currently only invest a very small percentage of their portfolio in the agricultural sector. The financial gap for small and medium-sized enterprises is still large. Herein lies the opportunity for innovative financial institutions to meet the challenge by finding ways to mitigate the risks and take advantage of the growing investment potential. In the CARIFORUM region, there is an attractive enabling environment for investing in the agricultural sector, but it is not uniform from country to country. The sweet potato sector represents a promising business opportunity.

Key takeaways

  • Primary investments are needed to provide cultivation and irrigation equipment, climate change adaptation technology, and to enable value chain integration.
  • Working capital advances and term financing required as traditional financial instruments with collateral and monthly repayment schedules are not appropriate for farmers with non-monthly production cycles.
  • Financing is required for farmers, who will then pay other members of the value chain for machinery and input.
  • Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago currently rank higher than the Latin American average for ease of access to credit. Along with the Dominican Republic, they also rank highly in terms of credit information sharing.
  • The main financial services providers to agricultural small and medium-sized enterprises in the region are microfinance institutions and credit unions.Diversification opportunities

Diversification opportunities

The rate of growth of traditional CARIFORUM economies has declined, and countries within the region are looking to diversify their economies from tourism, sugar, rum, bananas, and oil and gas. Diversification opportunities lie in developing existing sectors such as mineral extraction, tourism, high-tech manufacturing, financial services, and agribusiness.

The direct and indirect linkages between these growing sectors and the sweet potato sector are of paramount importance. For instance, the tourism sector opens an interesting market opportunity for this agricultural product.

Jamaica and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are the two main countries where investment has significant potential. Local financial institutions will have to be innovative and find solutions to respond to specific needs, such as weak farmer aggregation and isolation.

Sweet potato market 

Global sweet potato markets are thriving and demand high market prices with potentially lucrative returns to stakeholders if high efficiency is obtained along the value chain. The European market for sweet potato is relatively small but growing considerably, suggesting an interesting market opportunity for CARIFORUM sweet potato agribusinesses.

The UK and the USA dominate extra-regional imports from the Caribbean region, being the largest importers of sweet potato (fresh, chilled, and frozen) from Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, respectively. Canada, France and Sao Tome and Principe are also significant importers.

If the sweet potato output from local idle land were maximised through access to adequate resources and technology, it would provide a significant boost to the economies of the region.

The existing seasonal sweet potato export markets in the UK provide an opportunity for growth in the trade. These primary export markets are much bigger than the potential supply capacity of countries in the region, even at maximum production growth thrust. These export markets are economically lucrative.

Nevertheless, other smaller, complementary markets (import substitution, local, tourist, regional and processing) should not be ignored from a food security, regional economic development and social and environmental impact perspective.

Extra-regional imports from the Caribbean region

The UK and the US are the largest importers of sweet potatoes from the region, while EU imports doubled between 2009 and 2014 

Investment opportunities

  • Established trade relationships with partners such as the US, the UK, and the EU.
  • Increasing demand in these markets.
  • Efforts from local governments to promote sweet potato production.
  • Technical assistants can help perfect the value chain.

CTA FAST GUIDE cover

Download your Investment Guide here

The Finance Alliance for Sustainable Trade (FAST) has partnered with the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) to develop an investment guide for the sweet-potato sector in the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) region for financial institutions (FIs), with financial support from the Intra-ACP Agricultural Policy Programme (APP).

 

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