Sowing the Seeds for a Better Tomorrow

YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS WALK A LONG ROAD TO EXPORT AVOCADOS

New avocado producers in Pedernales, Dominican Republic, are introducing new growing techniques that are transforming the economy of the southeastern province. As avocado farms grow, they displace more traditional, but less lucrative, crops.

Gilberto and Cesarina Espinal, along with Gilberto’s brother Sendy, are young entrepreneurs with an interest in avocados dating back to 2018. Some family members successfully entered the business, but the three were convinced there was a better way to grow avocados. They did not want to follow established practices, like herbicides and controlled burns to get rid of weeds, just for the sake of tradition. The Espinals understood that producers with an open mind could achieve even better results.

Sendy Espinal applies a new grafting technique during a Farmer Field School.

In 2018, the Exporting Quality program began training farmers in Pedernales on Good Agricultural Practices, planting, pruning, and pest control measures. Every avocado producer or would-be avocado producer was encouraged to attend the workshops. The Espinal trio signed up right away.

Through technical and hands-on training, the Espinals became convinced of the potential impact that modern avocado cultivation could have on the economic development of their family and community. Driven by their growing passion, the Espinals traded in their other professional careers to plant 125 hectares of avocado in Aguas Negras.

In 2019, Cesarina and Gilberto Espinal went on a program-facilitated mission to the World Avocado Congress in Colombia. The couple returned home with new knowledge about pruning, planting, and phytosanitary practices that they learned at the World Avocado Congress and through direct observation on model farms in Colombia. They then launched Red Cape, an avocado production, sales, and export company.

At first, the Espinals grew 2,000 avocado plants from seed because they could not get high-quality plants. At the end of 2019, they constructed a nursery to produce at least 5,000 plants per year for their farm and sell surplus saplings to other producers.

Then Red Cape approached Exporting Quality for support to expand the nursery and double its capacity. They received 1,300 Hass avocado saplings, which they planted almost entirely with their own hands.

The saplings came from a Ministry of Agriculture nursery in Pedernales that was acquired by Exporting Quality as part of an avocado farm revitalization effort and donated to producers in area communities.

Red Cape is a success due to exceptional efforts of its founders and their dedication to using best cultivation practices. To date, the three Espinals have planted 35 hectares of avocado and aim for 50 hectares by the end of 2021. By then they will be able to harvest at least one 60-pound basket of avocados for every five plants. They expect to start exporting by 2022.

“Without the support and technical assistance given by the Exporting Quality Program,” Gilberto Espinal said, “it would not have been possible for us to learn the correct planting, optimal management, and cultivation of Hass avocado.”

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.