It’s no secret that theCaribbean has been animportant regional marketfor U.S. wood exporters.
Quite the contrary; in the wood prod-ucts industry, it is common knowledgethat sales of softwood lumber andpanel products to Caribbean nationshave continued to increase over thepast several years.Still, the soaring success in this regionhas not commanded as much attentionas high-flying markets such as those of Mexico, Japan and China.One reason that the Caribbean marketis sometimes taken for granted has to do with the vastness of its reaches and thefar-flung diversity of countries there. When examined one by one, most of these countries are relatively insignifi-cant markets due to their small size.However, when the numbers are aggre-gated, the region racks up truly respectable sales figures today andpossesses potential for even greaterexpansion tomorrow. For example, totalU.S. wood exports to the CaribbeanBasin average about $300 million eachyear, with softwood lumber and soft- wood plywood taking the lead. Wood, because of its relatively low maintenance, high durability and ver-satility, is often a choice constructionmaterial in these tropical climes. Butsince these countries possess little if any domestic sources of wood prod-ucts, demand must mostly be met withimported stock.Despite the great diversity among thesenations, there is one constant thatdrives increased sales of wood inall cases — the continued boom inthe tourism sector.Everywhere from the DominicanRepublic to Jamaica to even smallerisland nations, large multinationalhotel and resort chains are investingsubstantial revenue in the nationaleconomies.To handle the increasing number of tourists, many Caribbean countries areinvesting in the upgrading and expan-sion of airports, roads and port facilities.The Dominican Republic is perhapsthe best example of the increasedemphasis on developing infrastructurefor both tourism and other types of commerce. A stable Dominican gov-ernment, coupled with sound fiscaland monetary policy, has resulted instrong economic growth and highlevels of foreign investment.Tourism has been instrumental in thestrong economic growth of the past few years. Tourists, mostly Europeans,flock to the palatial hotels and resortsthat now line the sun-drenched coastin such places as La Romana andVavaro. Road construction and portrehabilitation are noticeable in themore urban areas of Santo Domingoand Porta Plata.The wood industry has definitely benefited from these developmentactivities. In 1999, U.S. softwoodlumber sales to the DominicanRepublic totaled $45.4 million andsales of softwood plywood totaled$10.1 million.To a small extent, these gains canbe attributed to reconstruction activi-ties in the wake of HurricaneGeorge; however, the brunt of thestorm missed the major tourist areaslocated in the north and northeastof the country. This indicates thata majority of the building activity was for new projects.
THE FEDERAL SCOOP
FUN IN THE SUN
by Andy Salamone,
Forest and Fisheries Products Division, Foreign Agricultural Service
TOURISM AND U.S. WOOD PRODUCTS IN THE CARIBBEAN
BUILDING SUCCESS IN THEDOMINICAN REPUBLIC
THE CARIBBEAN IS INCREASING IN IMPORTANCE AS A MARKET FOR U.S.WOOD PRODUCTS. AS TOURISM CONTINUES TO GROW AND THE ECONOMIESOF THESE ISLAND NATIONS STRENGTHEN, SALES VOLUMES ARE LIKELY TOINCREASE FURTHER.