Its proximity to the United
States not only affects island culture, but also provides the Bahamian
Island group with a major proportion of its largest industry--tourism.
It is not surprising that $128 million, or 85 percent, of the islands'
agricultural imports each year come from the United States.
Tourism Leads Island Industries
The Bahamas' 700 islands
and 2,000 cays support a population of 308,000. Last year, 4.4 million
tourists visited the islands, accounting for 60 percent of the national
GDP (gross domestic product) and two-thirds of all jobs.
Offshore banking lends
another 15 percent to the country's GDP, and shipbuilding also buoys
With the third highest
number of tourist stopovers in the Caribbean and two other strong
industries, Bahamians enjoy high per capita income.
Most residents live on
the islands of New Providence (around the nation's capital, Nassau)
or Grand Bahama (around Freeport).
Characteristics of the
Between 65 and 80 percent
of the islands' retail food supply is imported from the United States.
Most significant U.S. food products and labels are already represented
in the market and compete favorably with local goods.
Bahamians usually buy their
basic foods from supermarkets. And they tend to adhere to their traditional
diet that includes rice, beans, evaporated milk, corned beef, flour
for conch fritters and homemade macaroni and cheese.
Trendy retail items include
processed chicken pieces, hot dogs and salty snacks. Individually
packaged cookies and candies are popular in school lunch programs.
Two major supermarket chains,
more than 200 small independent grocers, two hypermarkets, two club
stores, several mom-'n'-pop chains and a growing number of gas marts
make up most of the retail sector.
Although larger chain supermarkets
are slowly gaining numbers, independent grocers will likely always
maintain a presence on the islands in areas where market demand is
insufficient for large-scale investment. However, as disposable income
increases and spare time becomes more limited, more consumers are
purchasing convenience foods at gas marts.
While convenience foods
and meals are gradually increasing in popularity organic and health
foods have been slow to catch on. But this may change as consumers'
incomes rise and their health consciousness grows. For now, tofu and
soymilk lead health food sales.
The only food items consistently
coming from countries other than the United States are: flour from
Canada, lamb from New Zealand, pork from Venezuela, canned beef from
Argentina and certain jams and cookies from the United Kingdom.
With many U.S. products
claiming an entrenched clientele, new entrants should search for a
niche market, develop a customized marketing plan and work with an
established local distributor. Many local wholesalers and distributors
have proven track records.
Travel to the Bahamas is
highly recommended, with Nassau being a good place to start as it
is home to the highest number of retail outlets.
It is likely that distributors
will continue to dominate the retail import industry, due to the limited
population it serves. The club warehouse stores and two largest supermarket
chains do, however, buy directly from U.S. suppliers.
Independent grocers, mom-'n'-pop
stores and wet market vendors, with limited purchasing power, buy
mostly from local wholesalers and farms, and sometimes grow their
U.S. suppliers find Bahamian
import policies and procedures similar to those in the United States.
However, in an effort to
protect local industry, the Bahamian government imposes tariffs and/or
stamp taxes on fruits and vegetables, soft drinks, bottled water,
juices, fresh poultry meat, eggs, live fish, nuts, some seafood, prepared
meats and spirits.
As local production of
these commodities falls short of meeting demand, consumers often must
buy higher priced imports.
Products with the strongest
sales potential in the Bahamas include:
* Dairy products
* Fruit juices
* Specialty and seafood
Products with good potential
* Other soy-based products
The author is an agricultural
marketing specialist with the Caribbean Basin Agricultural Trade Office
in Miami, Florida. Tel.: (1-305) 536-7577; Fax: (1-305) 536-5300;
For details, see FAS Report
C13015. To find it on the Web, start at www.fas.usda.gov, select Attache
Reports and follow the prompts.