By Bolívar Troncoso Morales
This country produces a vast array of gastronomic products, a direct result of different geographical influences. The Dominican Republic is located in a tropical area, considered the most biodiverse on the planet. This geographical influence plays a key role in the country’s capacity to producing diverse agricultural and marine products. Another important factor is the diversity and quality of the soils, since the country possesses eight different major types of soil quality, 1, 2 and 3 being the best ones in terms of quality and production. Soil categorized as quality 1 is found in the Central Cibao, or Cibao valley, considered the agricultural breadbasket of the country. The most important products harvested therein are rice, bananas, cocoa, cassava, sweet potatoes, pigeon peas, sorghum, soybean, tomatoes, corn, and bananas, among others. Additionally, livestock farming also plays a key role in this region, by producing beef cattle, swine, poultry and other species. On the other hand, the mountain ranges offer limited production, due to its elevation, as well as its forestry canopy and lack of depth. Some of the most representative crops in this region are coffee, avocados, taro, yams, citrus and other fruit trees such as sapote, lilikoi, star fruit, soursop, Spanish lime, loquat and passionfruit. Despite the above mentioned land limitations, bovine cattle farming takes place in this mountainous zone.
Microclimate diversity would be the other influential factor. Given the fact that the country features a prevailing tropical climate, and is being affected by climate change, there are variations in the periodicity and direction of the rainfall, hence affecting agricultural and marine production. The four variants, called microclimates, of higher incidence are: humid tropical forest, humid tropical savannah, dry steppe and altitudinal or mountainous.
On one hand, the humid tropical forest microclimate is found in the Northeast region. Because of the good levels of humidity, the crops themselves are varied in this area. Some of the most significant products grown in this territory are rice, cocoa, coffee, coconuts, plantains, cassava, squash, ginger, banana, yam, taro, sweet potato, coriander, and celery root, among others. In this microclimate there is the largest production of swine and poultry through farms as well livestock farming. Meanwhile, the humid tropical savannah microclimate is in the South- eastern or the Caribbean coastal plain. The crops par excellence are sweet grasses such as sugar cane, pasture and rice. Bananas, cassava, taro, squash, coconut, fruit trees and cattle are also grown in this region. The dry steppe microclimate is found in both the Southwest and North- west regions of the country. Crops in this microclimate require irrigation, due to the limited amount of rainfall. Some featured products grown in these areas are the Barceló tomato, eggplant, green pepper, banana, plantain, yucca, papaya and others. The types of livestock that best adapt to this microclimate are goats and sheep, as well as bovine.
As for the highland microclimate, it must be pointed out that the greater development of agriculture in the valleys is either supervised or carried out in greenhouses. Most of these products are to be exported. The most representative crops are potatoes, garlic, onion, avocado (export commodity) vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, carrot, beetroot, celery, tomatoes, peppers, celery, strawberry, creole pear, pomegranate and other fruit trees.
The products obtained from the ocean are also extremely valuable. The geographical factors that determine the production and presence of coral colonies and the different ocean currents influence the behavior of water temperatures. Factors such as overfishing and global warming are affecting the production of marine resources as well as fishing. The most important fish resources are grouper, mackerel, red snapper, parrot- fish, and shellfish species such as lobster, shrimp, conch, octopus and others. In short, the geographical diversity or geomorphological regions, microclimates and soils, along with other factors, make our country a territory featuring a great variety of both , agricultural and marine food products.