The agriculture economy of the region has been greatly eroded by the loss of preferential markets for sugar and banana. Anthurium has been targeted as an important crop with export potential in the region’s diversification efforts. Smaller farms with more intensive production systems, a characteristic of farming in small island developing states, is more suited for growing ornamentals than field crops or tree crops. Furthermore, the proximity of the Caribbean to the attractive North American market, which is serviced daily by direct flights, historic ties with various European markets, the expanding intra-regional market and growing linkages with the regional tourism industry provide enormous potential for the expansion of the industry.
Other opportunities include:
- Opportunities for Small-Island Caribbean States to establish a competitive agro-industry.
- Relief to farmers displaced from banana and sugarcane by engaging in an innovative activity.
- Opportunity for greater linkages with the tourism industry will assist in retaining the tourism revenue within the Caribbean region.
During the past 25 years innovative systems of growing anthurium in the tropics under shade houses have been developed by progressive farmers in the region. Considerable research effort, particularly at the University of the West Indies (UWI), has been expended in accumulating elite germplasm, learning to manage diseases, screening for disease resistance, breeding for resistance, bioengineering for novel cut-flower colours, developing micropropagation systems to rapidly multiply anthurium at minimal cost etc. Recently a number of novel varieties that combine resistance with good horticultural attributes have been developed in a collaborative effort between Kairi Cut-flowers Ltd and UWI, St. Augustine. Bioengineering these varieties for novel colours is presently underway at UWI. A semi-commercial tissue culture facility has been established at UWI, St. Augustine to supply planting material to farmers. In the marketing front, flower arrangements with anthurium by the Caribbean florists have consistently won high awards in international horticultural shows. This coupled with the fact that anthurium has the longest vaselife of any known ornamental flower augurs well for its marketing. These developments provide great promise for resuscitating the Caribbean anthurium industry.