Farmers urged to benefit from tourism boom
Minister of Tourism and Entertainment Dr Wykeham McNeill has urged the nation's farmers to plan strategically to benefit from the expected increased demand for local produce as the tourism sector continues to experience strong growth.
With tourism arrivals continuing to trend upwards, 1,600 new hotel rooms being added to the accommodation inventory in the next 18 months, and thousands more rooms in the advanced planning stages, McNeill asked the audience of some 100 farmers, agricultural produce suppliers and representatives of agricultural organisations from across the island, "Who is going to feed all these visitors?"
McNeill was giving opening remarks at a meeting hosted by the ministry's Tourism Linkages Hub on July 1, to sensitise the farmers and suppliers to the anticipated boom in tourism and the need for them to effectively plan production to meet the increase in demand. The meeting was held at the Golf View Hotel in Mandeville, Manchester.
"Someone has to feed these people. We can either bring in the food or grow the food," McNeill stated.
More than arrivals
"We cannot continue to look at tourism success from the angle of tourism arrivals and investments. I want the benefits of tourism to reach the Jamaican people, too. That is my priority," the minister stated, adding that "tourism must be used as a tool to decrease poverty and give more Jamaicans wealth".
"But it is not going to happen just like that. We have to work together to make it happen," said McNeill. He pointed out that the Tourism Linkages Hub is on a mission to ensure the tourism sector becomes better integrated with and creates more opportunities for local agriculture. The minister said he would like the day to come when nearly everything consumed in local hotels is produced in Jamaica.
In addition to charging farmers and suppliers to pay careful attention to quality, quantity and pricing, McNeill pointed to fruits, premium products and the farm-to-fork concept as three areas of opportunity from which they could benefit.
In his address, the minister of agriculture, labour and social security, Derrick Kellier, praised McNeill for his vision, not just in establishing the Hub, but in ensuring its vigilant stewardship as it seeks to increase the supply of agricultural products to the tourism market.
"Jamaica can only prosper on a sustainable basis when we develop and maintain linkages to ensure that every industry and economic activity allows as many people as possible to prosper," said Kellier, adding that "one han' cyan clap, so collaboration remains critical".
He concluded by saluting the efforts of the linkages hub as the two ministries continued to work together to identify the market demand for agriculture produce in the tourism sector and effectively plan production and distribution to meet those needs.
Leading discussions at the meeting were Tourism Linkages Hub project manager, Carolyn McDonald Riley; Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Donovan Stanberry; and Tourism Linkages Council member Dr Derrick Deslandes.
Representatives from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, the Agro-Investment Corporation, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, the Jamaica Agriculture Society and JAMPRO were also in attendance.