Staff of the Dominica Export Import Agency’s (DEXIA) Multi Purpose Pack Houses (MPPH) met with dasheen farmers of the communities of Riviere Cyrique, Belles and Grand Fond to sensitise farmers and discuss collaborations regarding the production and marketing of the crop.
The MPPH team first met with Riviere Cyrique Farmers on Tuesday 26th January, then with the Belles farmers the following day and Grand Fond Farmers on Thursday the 28th. The meetings focused on the benefits to farmers due to increased demand for dasheen and related value-added products such as dasheen chunks and dasheen flour. There was also significant discussion on the need for farmers to properly manage production to consistently meet those demands.
“We want to commend the farmers for their consistent production over the years and we want them to know we are doing all we can to find markets for their commodities,” says MPPH Operations Manager Bristol Lawrence.
Demand for dasheen is increasing as persons in the Diaspora, especially the United States and United Kingdom, seek food that connect them to home and also as persons change their eating habits for health reasons. Dasheen which, in the past, may have been rejected for not meeting market specifications are now being chunked, bagged and frozen by DEXIA and sold at local supermarkets.
According to Lawrence, this has obvious financial benefits.
“Before, when we received dasheen that did not meet market standards, they would be rejected or bought at a cheaper price. Now, however, we are paying farmers full price for whatever we accept from them. Obviously this means that there is more money in their pocket,” he said.
Rivere Cyrique farmer Jake Matthew welcomes this “wonderful” development.
“I [have been] selling dasheen [to] DEXIA for the longest while and whenever we got rejects they usually pay us 50 cents a pound. Right now they paying a dollar it’s a big strength for every farmer. I believe every farmer would appreciate that a hundred percent because if they [are] taking everything at a dollar I don’t think we have nothing to lose.”
With respect to production, the Agency is impressing upon farmers, that where possible, they should stagger their planting to meet demand in the summer / dry season.
Mitch Jno. Charles, Marketing Officer at MPPH, says that the French Departments of Guadeloupe and Martinique have an especially strong demand for Dominican dasheen and efforts are underway to penetrate that market.
“We have recently printed French language versions of our dasheen chunks label in effort to increase sales to those islands. It is imperative that we keep up production to meet this demand,” Jno. Charles stated.
Market Extension Officer with the MPPH, Mervin Thomas, acknowledges the importance of linking production to marketing.
He said: “We, the extension officers, will provide technical support to the farmers through field visits, regular monitoring of farms and scheduling of establishments to consistently get volumes that these markets require. We will also do so working in conjunction with the Ministry of Blue and Green Economy, Agriculture and National Food Security extension staff.”
Other issues covered at the meeting included the ageing farming population and the need to get young persons involved in farming, the labour intensive nature of establishing dasheen fields and how to modernise farming methods, the need to get farmers groups working as cohesive units as well as the presence of women actively engaged in the sector.
Other meetings are planned for farmers in other parts of the island including Morne Jaune and communities in the north-east.
Persons wishing to sell dasheen to DEXIA should contact the packhouse at [email protected] or call 275-5973.