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Old 11-03-2010, 06:52   #1
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Cool Really Stupid Question: What’s Food Shopping Like in the Caribbean?

As opposed to my other, just plain stupid questions.
Last night my wife and I were doing some more planning for our upcoming move onto our boat and down to the Caribbean when my wife asked me what the shopping was like in the islands. Specifically shopping for fresh produce. We eat a lot of fruits and vegetables and fish we don't much like the canned versions. So wondering if you folks who are donw there can tells us what's available.

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Old 11-03-2010, 08:27   #2
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Oh goody. I love really stupid questions but unforunately this one is not even plain stupid.

Answer, it varies a LOT!

Bahamas are mostly dry islands with limited water and rainfall. The smaller islands can have limited soil suitable for agriculture. So, in the Bahamas fresh, locally grown fruit can be scarce, limited or very expensive. Most bananas I bought there were shipped from the US.

The Virgins tend to be more tourist economy than agro so similar situation. In general, the larger islands (PR, Cuba if you can go there, Hispaniola) have more farming so more and cheaper local produce. Jamaica, at least the last time I was there, was variable. Some locally grown produce was more expensive than imported stuff in the US, pineapples for instance. Others like mangoes and bananas were cheaper. Guess they just have horrible inflation and a weird economy so you get some weird prices.

I once bought a dozen, giant, perfectly ripe Bombay mangoes in Haiti for one dollar. I ate so many I thought my eyeballs would turn orange.
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Old 11-03-2010, 13:06   #3
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My experience in chartering in the virgins is that outside of the major towns food was quite difficult to come by and quality was poor very hard to get fruit for example or anykind of good meat. Compared to the canaries for example on similar lattitudes, there there was an abundance.
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Old 11-03-2010, 13:16   #4
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In St. Thomas there is a Cost-U-Less that seemed to be about 20% or so higher then here in Virginia but had a very similar selection. The little local stores in St. Thomas and the very nice grocery on St. John are much more expensive but I am always surprised by the selection when I go down. Seafood and fruits always seems like they should be cheaper then they actually are.

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Old 14-03-2010, 17:31   #5
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In USVI and BVI the provisioning is really good. I use to do charter work there and I had no problem in getting first rate meats, veges, fruit. It is more expensive though, than what you are probably use to in the States.
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Old 14-03-2010, 17:59   #6
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It is like: "Who needs food, my friend: you want to buy some ganja?" And you will know a farmer by funny multi-colored cap. At least this is what I have run into at St. Vincent and Bequia, etc..

In the French places you just go to a supermarche and get what you want (or what you can afford;-)).

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Old 15-03-2010, 06:45   #7
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Once you get out of the Virgins you'll start finding local open-air markets with numerous vendors selling fresh produce. Depending on which island you're on, it could be local, imported, or some of each. Prices will vary, too, but produce isn't priced out of line with what you're probably used to. The local produce here on Nevis costs about twice as much as produce sold by the vendors from Dominica, who come here once a week on a rusty boat. Twice as much as Dominica is still pretty reasonable. For example, a nice local avocado is $1.85 US vs. $1.11 US from the Dominican boat. A nice, juicy grapefruit goes for $0.75 US vs. $0.38 US from the boat.

The French islands supply themselves. Dominica and St. Vincent export to many of the others, where local produce generally supplements the imports. Produce in the Grenadines is almost exclusively from St. Vincent. You'll also so see stuff from far away, too, like romaine lettuce from California, pineapples from Costa Rica, and apples from Washington state. Buy the local stuff when available. The produce from Dominica and St. Vincent is organically produced and is great.

You can also find local fish markets on many of the islands. They're not always open, and sometimes just the fishermen with coolers on the sidewalk. When you hear a long, single blast from a conch shell, it means the fishermen are back ashore and selling their catch. You'll catch on sooner or later that the price can be negotiable. Sometimes the price quoted to you will be a bit more than that offered to the locals, but still not all that expensive. We buy snapper and cleaned conch for $3/lb.
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Old 15-03-2010, 07:45   #8
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Yes, as other posters have said, in most of the Caribbean you will have no problem provisioning. HOWEVER there are some noteable exceptions:

1. Cuba.A lot of food is still rationed and difficult to buy ie bread,rice oil. Farmer's markets are few and far between. You would be well advised to be pretty much self sufficient here. Any available produce should be treated like a bonus.

2. San Blas Islands, Panama.
Not so bad in the western part but if you go to the East, closer to Columbia again there are very few stores. Those that exist sell a few fizzy drinks and cans of tomato paste! Some veg can be purchased from locals but it can be a pretty weird mix!

Good Luck!
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