Throughout my time spent in St. Vincent I’ve held conversations with many different types of agro-processors whose produce ranged from pepper sauce/seasoning, to coffee, and coconut oil. Running an agro-processing business in St. Vincent, as I’ve learned through my discussions, is quite challenging; the costs of running operations are extremely high and most struggle to stay afloat. For most businesses, all of the machinery and packaging must be imported, coming with the cost of hefty duties. This essentially doubles the cost and makes starting up particularly difficult. Packaging and labeling inputs are typically imported from the United States or Trinidad making it an expensive facet of the production process.
Energy costs are also extremely high: the country’s primary source of energy is derived from fossil fuels, while rough 30% stems from hydroelectricity. (St. Vincent is currently exploring a geo-thermal viability http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/11/st-vincents-volcano-holds-more-promise-than-peril/ ) The cost is 40 cents per kilowatt an hour which is roughly 400% more than it does in Canada. Most also struggle to access financing, and either turn to personal loans when they are available or pay extremely high interests rates. Despite these obstacles, the driven agro-processors manage to stay afloat and possess strong entrepreneurial spirits.
For more information on some of the processors I’ve had the opportunity to meet with check out these links.