Food processing in CARICOM

The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines food processing as “any variety of operations by which raw foodstuffs are made suitable for consumption, cooking or storage”. Examples of food processing include making juices and jams from raw fruit, making flour from wheat, making sugar from sugarcane and smoking fish or meat to preserve it.

Food processing is an important economic activity in many CARICOM member states. It employs many people and also helps these countries reduce the quantity of food products that they import. Food processing operations also provide a market for many local products from the agricultural and fishing industries.

Many food processing operations are located in or near areas where the food is produced. For instance, sugar factories are often located near sugarcane fields. This is because agricultural products are often more bulky and more perishable than the finished products.

In many cases, raw materials are imported to be processed. In these cases, the food processing operations are often located near ports. This makes it convenient to receive imported raw materials and export the finished products. Examples include flour mills in St. Vincent, Trinidad, Jamaica and Barbados. These mills import wheat from outside the region and process it into flour for the local and regional market. 

Pine Hill Dairy – A Food Processing Company

Barbados Dairy Industries, which trades as Pine Hill Dairy was registered as a Limited Liability Company in 1964. Pine Hill Dairy is located in Bridgetown, a few kilometers from the port. It produces products such as whole milk, low fat milk, skimmed milk, evaporated milk and condensed milk. It also produces flavoured milk products such as chocolate milk, vanilla milk and cookies and cream milk.

In 1976, the company also started producing fruit juices. It first produced orange juice followed by other flavours such as bajan cherry, passion fruit, apple and fruit punch. 

Pine Hill Dairy obtains some of its raw materials locally. For instance, some of the milk it uses is supplied by local dairy farmers. However it has to import most of the raw materials for its operations. Pine Hill Dairy Products are not only sold in Barbados. Its main markets are other Caribbean countries such as Guyana, Trinidad, St. Lucia and Antigua. The company also exports products to the USA and Canada. 


Trends in the Caribbean Food Processing Industry

In the Caribbean, food processing is becoming more dependent on imported raw materials. One example of this is Pine Hill Dairy in Barbados. Decades ago, its first suppliers were local dairy farmers. However, as the company expanded over time, the local supply of milk was no longer sufficient. The company now imports much of its milk from overseas.

Some food processing operations are affected by variations in the availability of raw materials. For instance, some fruits are seasonal. Also, extreme weather events such as hurricanes may damage or destroy local crops. This often results in the need to import raw materials in order to sustain production.

Many food processing operations in the Caribbean are small businesses with only a few employees. Therefore their output is limited. Also, they are often unable to experience the benefits of large scale production.


Barbados Dairy Industries Limited – Barbados

The food processing industry of the Caribbean

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