The national cattle association of the Dominican Republic claims that the cattle industry is on the verge of collapse. The crisis stems from strong competition from imported meat and dairy products. In 1998, the Dominican Republic imported 800,000 pounds of beef, but by 2000 that number reached 42 million pounds.

Even though the price of domestic beef has declined substantially over the past year, producers are unable to sell their animals. Industry leaders are pressing the government follow the example of Costa Rica, which recently restricted dairy imports in order to allow its national cattle industry to recover. This Dominican government is now forced to make the difficult choice because accommodating the demands of cattlemen would mean cutting back on inexpensive imports that are popular with local consumers.

By Steve Lewis, correspondent