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Following two years of uninterrupted growth, goods exported from Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) have fallen in the first months of 2019 due to a decline in the volume of exports as well as a drop in the prices of raw materials.
Jamaica and other Caribbean countries — Dominican Republic, Haiti, Barbados, and Suriname — together with Mexico, Ecuador, and Costa Rica, are the only ones to record positive developments from January to March.
However, the slowdown is still significant. The value of LAC exports has shrunk by an estimated interannual rate of 1.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2019, according to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Countries in the region are therefore making a concerted effort to foster their overseas commercial relationships in order to counter the drop in demand.
The Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export), in cooperation with the European Union and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GmbH or GIZ) will be holding the fourth Cariforum-EU business forum from the 26-28, of September 2019 in Frankfurt, Germany, with the aim of improving commercial relationships between 15 Caribbean countries (Cariforum) and Europe, and increasing awareness of the private sector of business opportunities in the European market.
Caribbean Export has identified the agro-processed food and natural ingredient industries, and the cultural and creative industries as the sectors with the highest potential for growth in Europe.
Examples of agro-processed food and natural ingredients from the region include rum and seasonings. Global rum exports have increased by 26.86 per cent over the last three years to reach a value of 1.45 million euros, and the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are its major producers.
In Europe, consumption in this market is led by Germany and Spain. In Spain, rum consumption makes up 14 per cent of the spirits market, and in 2018 over 68 per cent of global imports of rum came from the European market.
“Over the last decade the production of rum has diversified to include a wide range of flavours — including apple, pineapple, mango, and passion fruit,” commented Damie Sinanan, manager for competitiveness and export promotion at Caribbean Export. “With these changing trends and increased demand, we hope to see a more diverse range of Caribbean rum available in the European market.”
In addition, there is a noticeable increase in imports of spices and seasonings from developing countries to Europe (97 per cent of the total import volume). This owes to the healthy lifestyle trends and interest in new flavours and sustainability. In fact, the global spice market was forecasted to grow by 5.1 per cent from 2017 to 2021, according to Eurostat.
Meanwhile, Europe's demand for natural, plant-based ingredients, combined with the region's efforts to promote sustainability, is fueling the demand for natural products in different industries such as the cosmetics market.
The Caribbean has an abundance of naturally grown produce that can be used within the nutraceutical and natural cosmetics market. Coconuts, for example, can be used in a wide range of products including cosmetics, and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) reports that the natural cosmetics market is projected to grow at a 4.9 per cent volume CAGR (compound annual growth rate) through 2027.
In 2017, the European cosmetics market was valued at €77.6 billion, making Europe the largest cosmetics market in the world, and natural cosmetics accounts for around 5 per cent of total market. Among the European countries, Germany has the largest market for cosmetic products, valued at €13.6 billion, followed by France (€11.3 billion), the UK (€11.1 billion), Italy (€10.1billion), and Spain (€6.8 billion).
Another interesting segment is gluten-free foods and beverages. Europe accounts for approximately 25 per cent of global, gluten-free product demand.
“European consumers are increasingly concerned by their health and diet, which has a positive impact on the demand for naturally sourced products found in the Caribbean, including those believed to have health benefits,” explained Sinanan.
Wheat-based flour contains varying levels of the protein gluten, which has gained significant notoriety over the past decade due to the increasing prevalence of gluten-related health complications and a general switch by consumers to more health-conscious options across the board. Furthermore, the gluten-free market is expected to grow to the value of €29 billion by 2025.
In the cultural and creative industries, the increase in demand for Caribbean music is reflected in the huge popularity of festivals featuring this genre of music in European countries, such as Summerjam reggae festival in Germany, Ibiza Soca Festival in Spain, and Reggae Sun Ska Festival in France, among many others.
“One of the aims of this forum is to promote Caribbean cinema and animation as well as music and animation, in particular, as we know that it is one of the most widely circulated categories in Europe,” indicated Sinanan.
Caribbean Export is committed to promoting the agro-processed food and natural ingredient sectors and the creative industries in Europe through its role as a regional export development and trade and investment promotion organisation of Cariforum.
The organisation is currently executing the Regional Private Sector Development Programme (RPSDP) funded by the European Union, under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF). The development agency's mission is to increase the competitiveness of Caribbean countries by providing quality export development and trade and investment promotion services through effective programme execution and strategic alliances.