Preparing for Safety and Success

A game-changing initiative helps Dominican exporters comply with new food safety regulations

In the Dominican town of Jarabacoa is an agricultural export company called EDELCA, which exports bell peppers and Beefsteak tomatoes to the United States. The company focuses on the ethnic market segment, specifically, the Dominican diaspora in New York and Miami.

EDELCA has been around since 1995 but has had a spotty history — at one point, the company was forced to stop operations. EDELCA resumed exporting in 2019, confronting a new challenge: complying with regulations under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

José Escarramán packs eggplants for export

The USDA-funded Exporting Quality program, which aims to increase the productivity and sales of high-value fruits and vegetables to domestic and export markets, knew FSMA would pose a challenge for Dominican producers and exporters. In 2020, the program began delivering FSMA-readiness assistance to 39 packing companies, helping them improve food handling practices and develop food safety plans to comply with FSMA regulations.

This initiative was key to EDELCA’s ability to resume operations. The exporter received robust technical assistance to build its capacity to comply with these regulations: planning, implementation, and follow-up, in addition to training for employees, technicians, and producers. EDELCA also received training on Good Agricultural and Manufacturing Practices, and implementing a food safety plan to further strengthen their operations. Finally, EDELCA received new equipment to comply with FSMA regulations through Exporting Quality’s small-grants program.

“The water chlorinator does the whole process,” said EDELCA director José Escarramán. “It is very precise, avoids mistakes, and does it automatically, not in a rustic way, as we did in the past.”

“The traceability system allows us to have a precise and well-presented barcode tracking. In fact, the United States customer requires us to prepare the shipment with the information provided by the traceability system,” said Escarramán. “[Now] we can present our products in the way the clients demand.”

This support helped EDELCA achieve a desired market position in the export sector. EDELCA can export highly safe products, ensuring strict quality control from the farm to the final consumer. Customers have noticed. EDELCA increased exports by 33%, received offers from other buyers, and reached annual sales of $150,000.

Exporting Quality in the Dominican Republic, funded by the United States Department of Agriculture ‘Food for Progress’ initiative and implemented by IESC, focuses its efforts on increasing productivity and sales for domestic and export markets of high-value fruit and vegetable global value chains: avocado, cocoa, pineapple, and greenhouse and Asian vegetables. The program also supports efforts to increase product quality, production efficiency, the value of post-harvest products, and to improve marketing and market linkages.