COTUI, Dominican Republic – Rice is the basic foodstuff in the Caribbean and, for some months, in the Dominican Republic it has also been a tourism resource thanks to the Rice Route, an ecotourism proposal being implemented to complement the country’s traditional leisure offerings of sun and beaches.
Seven percent of the country’s rice is grown in Cotui, the main municipality founded in 1505 in the interior province of Sanchez Ramirez. According to forecasts, some 33,000 producers around the country will produce about 1.1 million metric tons of the grain, most of them working on farms of less than 6.29 hectares (about 16 acres).
However, about 41 percent of the national harvest passes through the processing – or “milling” – phase and the area contains 24 of the country’s rice processing plants, one of the tourism guides, Ramon Galan, said.
Taking advantage of the rice industry and the natural surroundings, the Rice Route is one of the pillars of the strategic plan aimed at improving the living conditions for residents of the province over the next five years, the president of the Cotui Rotary Club, Fran Sanchez, told EFE.
The Dominican Republic welcomes some six million tourists every year, most of whom come for the sun and beaches, but ecotourism is the world’s fastest growing tourist sector and “has a greater impact on improving the local economies,” and that is why in February the country started offering tours of the rice region to tour operators.
Although the sector is still in its “infancy,” Sanchez said that authorities are happy with the results so far and he announced two new tour routes that will soon become part of the mix, one focusing on cultural aspects and the other on gold, given that Cotui is also a mining district.
The Rice Route takes visitors on a tour of the entire production process from preparing the paddies to processing the grain, making stops in the communities of La Bija, La Mata, El Pozo, Los Corotos and Quita Sueño.