What role does organic coffee play in the overall export figures of the industry?
JOSÉ FERMÍN NÚÑEZ Traditionally, organic coffee has always played a key role in the industry. In the past, exports of organic coffee were the largest and most significant in the industry. However, the situation has changed in the country, and we think that it will further decrease in the near future due to the industry's current state of development, in which strong brands have taken over and are becoming more relevant in international markets. At the moment, CODOCAFE is focusing its work on diversifying the products in the industry while contributing to its development by conducting research projects and investigations to make production more efficient.
How would you assess the level of competitiveness in the Dominican sugar industry?
JOSÉ CASIMIRO RAMOS The country has a long and vast history of sugar production. In fact, Central Romana, a local producer, is among the best and largest sugar producers in the world. We have a wide range of production varieties with a good level of technological advancement, something that has enabled the industry to take a step forward, because in the past the lack of such technologies clearly limited our development. We are focusing on boosting our exports to several European countries. However, we need to improve distribution links with these markets as well as production efficiency among local producers, which should lead to a decrease in production costs.
What value-added can help to increase exports?
JFN The protected designation of origin (PDO) can contribute to give added value to the products. In many countries, similar to wine and olive oil, coffee is a product with a PDO. The Dominican Republic is in the first stages of differentiating the coffee produced here using the aroma and the area where it comes from. CODOCAFE is already working with some producers in specific areas of the country to continue this process with their products for the benefit of the national industry. Today, we can proudly say that the Dominican Republic already has its own coffee with a PDO, Café de Valdesia. This particular coffee is being sold at higher prices on the international market thanks to the added value of having a PDO. Also, Café de Barahona is another Dominican PDO, while Café Monte Bonito has its own certification brand. In addition, we installed a coffee laboratory that has already received three ISO certificates and we are in the final stage of recognizing the Dominican Coffee brand in our coffee sold in the EU, becoming the first developing country to acquire such a status in the coffee industry. These two latter elements will boost the international recognition of our coffee and hopefully open many doors into different EU markets. The Dominican Coffee brand has been developed as a support tool for local producers and exporters. As a national institution, we envisage the Dominican Coffee brand to work as an umbrella, meaning Café de Valdesia will be recognized as Dominican coffee with a PDO. Our aim is to promote all the coffee produced nationally, because the country is the main beneficiary of the success. Today, Café de Valdesia is the most recognized coffee in the Dominican Republic, and has the greatest presence in the coffee industry abroad.
JCR Although there are some relevant projects focused on value-added—such as Vitamin A being added to sugar—I do not believe that it plays a significant role in the industry. Nowadays, the great advantage for producers in the sector is production volume. Many companies, such as Central Romana, have become role models for other enterprises. In fact, Central Romana has a production capacity of 500,000 tons of sugar, and it is currently producing around 350,000 tons. That means there is room to grow in the sector, because the country used to produce up to 1 million tons of sugar, whereas now the country's production might be around 50% of that figure. The industry is on the right path to boost production figures in the near future, and along with the increases in production will come the need for a larger labor force. Today, the industry employs around 50,000 people and we foresee the need for more people to cover the future needs of the sector, which could be as much as twice the current figure.