Fresh approach to local production

Consumers are beginning to demand homegrown food and ethically produced, local products. The global trend has started to spread to the Cayman Islands and the Chamber of Commerce senses a new opportunity to create jobs and opportunities for Caymanian entrepreneurs. 

A global trend toward fresh homegrown food and micro-manufacturing is beginning to catch on in the Cayman Islands. 

The chances of this small Island being self sustaining or developing a manufacturing base are clearly far-fetched.  

But the contribution of local growers and producers to meeting the changing demands of Caymanian consumers are increasing daily. 

Restaurants like Michael’s Genuine Food-and-Drink, which specializes in homegrown food, and forums like the market at the Grounds are in keeping with a wider global move to meet demand for food that is produced close to source. 

A Culinary Visions Panel survey in the US, highlighting food trends for 2013 concluded that “sustainability is becoming non-negotiable for consumers” . 

Sharon Olson, executive director of the panel told USA Today that customers were increasingly demanding fresh, local food. 

“Nothing sells like pure and simple,” she said. 

The same trend is catching on in Cayman and not just in 
the food industry.  

Nelson Dilbert, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce’s new Local Producers’ Committee, said there was more being grown and produced here than people realize. 

And he believes there is capacity for growth in the sector as consumer’s get on board with the “buy local” phenomenon. 

“Local producers can play a bigger role than they do currently,” he said.  

“Over the past five years alone, there seems to have been a realisation of this.  

“In the US there is a growing trend towards small and micro manufacturing and production businesses.  

“This is happening to a degree in Cayman as well, as the knowledge and equipment needed to get involved in creating a product becomes more widely available.” 

One of the local producers’ committees’ first actions has been to develop a questionnaire to establish the main needs of the sector. 

Dilbert, managing director of Cayman Spirits Ltd., believes local stores are willing to do their part. But he said resources and expertise are big barrier 
for some producers. 

“Even a simple product requires specialised knowledge to create on a commercial scale and it can be a daunting task to take the first step.  

“The Internet has opened the door for us to access this knowledge and connect with communities and suppliers worldwide that can help us get started.” 

He added: “I think the stores have been more than willing to buy from local producers.  

“Ultimately, the burden of getting the product sold to the consumer should always be seen to rest with the producer. If the consumer will buy it, the store will carry it. If it is not selling, the product needs to be re-considered and tweaked.” 

David Kirkaldy, past president of the Chamber of Commerce, said local production had the scope to be a growing industry in the Cayman Islands. 

“Production activity in its many forms creates jobs and opportunities for Caymanian entrepreneurs. All businesses that produce local products are encouraged to get involved in the new committee.  

“One of our main goals will be to promote, protect and support the development of the industry and to improve the methods of production through training and professional development seminars.” 

Dilbert added that the range of goods produced in Cayman was more diverse than people realized. 

“You might be surprised at what is being produced here in Cayman today. Outside of food and drink, you can find locally made souvenirs and crafts, furniture, baby items, construction materials and much more.” 

He said there were obvious benefits to growing the industry even further. 

“It would create more high value careers based here in Cayman, rather than overseas. Local production also helps to create a diversified economy, more able to brace us from the lucrative, if at times fickle, nature of our tourism and finance industries.  

“Of course, export has its benefits as well, including reducing the foreign trade imbalance and building the Cayman brand worldwide.”