Pilot shipment to test new fresh produce supply line

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THE BOTTOM, SABA —The Public Entity Saba last summer approved a project to investigate possibilities to accomplish a more reliable supply of fresh produce, in terms of availability, quality and price. As part of this project, a new supply line from Miami to Saba is tested later this week by the Big Rock and Unique supermarkets. This should lead to the availability of more high-quality fresh produce that remains fresh longer.

Crises have shown that securing the supply of fresh produce on Saba remains a challenge. At the start of the crisis, caused by the coronavirus pandemic in March last year, it became clear that the supply of fresh fruits and vegetables from St. Maarten stagnated. Due to the fact that Saba is not fully self-sufficient, this quickly led to shortages on the island. Combined with the hurricane season and aware of the responsibility that the government has to ensure the basic needs of the community, the Public Entity Saba decided to look for solutions to improve the continuity of supply of fresh produce.

The supply route, Miami – Sint Maarten – Sint Maarten – Saba, has existed for decades, even though research conducted by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy (EZK) has shown that it is not the most suitable supply line for perishable goods. Long transportation times, combined with incorrect temperature regulation and product handling, leads to faster deterioration of fresh products, resulting in more food waste, which leads to higher prices on Saba. In the current situation, the availability of certain basic needs, especially fresh produce, cannot be guaranteed and the community sometimes has limited access to these products.

Direct import of fresh produce to Saba has been mentioned as the most promising solution to overcome these issues. To assess the potential of opening up a direct, weekly shipping route for fresh produce between Miami and Saba, a pilot shipment is scheduled to arrive this week. Unique and Big Rock supermarkets have decided to take part in this pilot shipment. The fresh produce from Miami is available at these stores coming Wednesday.

In de days after the shipment, the shelf-life of the incoming produce is assessed and after an evaluation with the stakeholders involved a final decision is made whether or not new shipments can be brought in.