Country Profile

Caribbean Basin Country Profile

Discover more about the Caribbean market including overviews about the retail, food service, and food processing sectors. Events, resources, and more are linked throughout the profile.

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Market Overview

The Caribbean region is a unique blend of independent states, overseas departments, or dependencies of European countries. This diversity of political statuses means that the region has an incredibly rich and varied culture, with influences from Europe, Africa, and the Americas. With a population of 29.8 million inhabitants (excluding Cuba and Puerto Rico), the Caribbean is home to a diverse population whose median age is 31.9 years. 

Half of the population is concentrated in three main markets: the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. The Caribbean also has an impressive 74.1% of its population living in urban areas. As the region continues to develop and grow, more of its population is expected to move to urban areas in search of better job prospects and access to education. 

Despite being hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, the Caribbean region is gradually recovering to its pre-pandemic condition and analysts predict a full recovery in 2023. During a difficult year of economic turbulence, with inflation, conflicts, supply chain disruptions, and extreme weather events, the Caribbean region still managed to demonstrate its resilience in 2022. 

The Caribbean is an excellent market for U.S. suppliers due to its proximity, close commercial ties, strong, and developing tourism industry, and policies that make it conducive to trade. These factors make the Caribbean an attractive market for U.S. suppliers looking to expand their businesses abroad or take advantage of new opportunities in an emerging market. 

In 2022, the U.S. exported a total of US$3.1 billion of consumer-oriented food products into the region, a 28% growth over the previous year and a new all-time high, placing the Caribbean in the 8th position on the list of the leading international destinations for U.S. food products. The top food exports during 2022 included pork ‎and ‎pork products‎, meat products, eggs ‎and products‎, dairy products‎, fresh vegetables, bakery goods‎, ‎cereals‎ and pasta‎, food preparations, condiments ‎and sauces‎, non‎-‎alcoholic beverages (‎ex‎. ‎juices‎), beer, wine ‎and ‎related products‎, distilled spirits, and dog and ‎cat food‎. 

The U.S. has a 48% market share of the Caribbean’s imported food market, but competition from Europe, Canada, and South and Central America has intensified. During 2022, markets with the highest record of food imports from the U.S. were the Dominican Republic with US$1.1 billion, the Bahamas with US$349 million, Jamaica with US$266 million, Netherland Antilles (Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten) with US$254 million, and Trinidad and Tobago with US$249 million. Other markets, such as the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Guadeloupe, Montserrat, Virgin Islands, and Saint Kitts and Nevis, also showed record high food imports from the U.S. 

Opportunities and Challenges for U.S. Food Exporters in the Caribbean Basin


  • In the Dominican Republic, the implementation of the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) has lowered or eliminated duties on nearly 80% of products. 
  • As the tourism sector recuperates, venues are open to selling/promoting high-quality U.S. consumer-oriented food products. 
  • Major retailers have expanded the number of stores and floor space during the last few years, with plans to continue this expansion. 
  • Efficient food distribution channels (new highways, modernized seaports/airports). 
  • The regulatory environment at present is open to U.S. products. 


  • Competition from Europe, Canada, and South and Central America has intensified. 
  • Delays for import permits and sanitary registration, which can affect the availability of imported products. 
  • Caribbean consumers are price sensitive; imported products in general are higher in price. Exchange rate fluctuations have generally made U.S. products more expensive. 

“All of Food Export's programs were a tremendous help getting us export ready, understanding the challenges that come with international business, and learning how to navigate them.

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Food Export-Northeast Participant since 2018         

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Retail Sector

The retail grocery market in the Caribbean is as heterogeneous as the 28 markets that make up the region. From traditional mom-and-pop grocery stores to state-of-the-art supermarkets and hypermarkets that mirror the most sophisticated grocery outlets in the United States and Europe, the Caribbean offers a plethora of retail grocery options. According to Euromonitor, Caribbean retail grocery sales increased by 2.6% during 2022 when compared to 2021. Euromonitor estimates total retail sales in the region at US$26.1 billion during 2022.

The Dominican retail sector can be divided into two distinct segments or channels: the modern and the traditional. The modern retail distribution channel is comprised of three main components: supermarket chains, independent supermarkets, and convenience stores known as “food shops.” Supermarket chains dominate this segment and offer a wide variety of U.S. products. However, despite their prominence and growth, only 25% to 30% of retail sales are via the modern retail channel.

The traditional retail channel is subdivided into two main components: neighborhood stores known as “colmados” and walk-in food warehouses known as “almacenes,” or “mercados,” located mainly in traditional street markets. In addition to direct sales to the public, almacenes also serve as suppliers to colmados. It is estimated that 75% to 80% of retail food sales are through the traditional retail channel.

In the English-Speaking Caribbean (ESC), about 65% to 70% of consumer-oriented are destined for the retail sector.  Most of the products stocked on the shelves of retail stores are imported.

Top product prospects include baked goods, edible preparations, alcoholic beverages, sauces and condiments, prepared cereals, pasta, non-alcoholic beverages, and processed fruits and nuts.

Food Service Sector

As the number of tourists traveling to most of these islands is on the rise, possibilities of further developing the market are always present. According to Euromonitor, Caribbean foodservice sales increased by 20.7% during 2022 when compared to 2021. Euromonitor estimates total foodservice sales in the region at US$14.2 billion during 2022. Overall, the Caribbean HRI food service sector accounts for 40% to 45% of consumer-related agricultural imports.   

Top product prospects include premium red meat cuts, pork, poultry parts, seafood, cheeses, frozen potatoes and vegetables, fresh fruits, wine, and craft beer.

Food-Processing Sector

Food processing in the broad Caribbean region is highly concentrated in a handful of countries such as the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Trinidad. Food processors within the region purchase roughly 20% of raw materials and food ingredients from local suppliers and import 80% from international suppliers. 

Top product prospects include agricultural inputs for wheat flour, pasta products, rice, bakery products, soy products, dairy products, and animal feed production.