Agro-Tourism Stakeholders Welcome Gastronomy Thrust

Photo: JIS Photographer Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, looks at items produced by the members of the Veteran Farmers Alliance during a tour of the group’s booth at a special meeting of the Negril Chamber of Commerce earlier this year.

Story Highlights

  • The Government’s move to promote Jamaica as a gastronomy tourism destination is being welcomed by stakeholders in western Jamaica, who see the push as having the potential to transform rural communities while making agriculture a production powerhouse.
  • “Tourism is an export industry. Agriculture complements tourism because the guests come, we feed them and they pay the country in foreign exchange. So, you are earning foreign exchange indirectly as we don’t have to use foreign exchange to import the food to feed guests,” he notes.
  • He argues that if farmers are able to have these guaranteed markets, then the rural economies would be totally transformed, as, based on his observations, a typical tourist will eat about three times the amount of fruits and vegetables that Jamaicans consume daily.

The Government’s move to promote Jamaica as a gastronomy tourism destination is being welcomed by stakeholders in western Jamaica, who see the push as having the potential to transform rural communities while making agriculture a production powerhouse.

Farmer and hotel operator, Daniel Grizzle, tells JIS News that gastronomy tourism will close the gap that exists between agriculture and tourism as farmers produce more high-value fruits and vegetables to meet the demands of visitors.

This will cut down on food imports and save the country much-needed foreign exchange.

“Tourism is an export industry. Agriculture complements tourism because the guests come, we feed them and they pay the country in foreign exchange. So, you are earning foreign exchange indirectly as we don’t have to use foreign exchange to import the food to feed guests,” he notes.

Mr. Grizzle says the marketing of Jamaica as a gastronomy tourism destination is a pragmatic move, as Caribbean cuisine is gaining popularity across Europe.

He argues that if farmers are able to have these guaranteed markets, then the rural economies would be totally transformed, as, based on his observations, a typical tourist will eat about three times the amount of fruits and vegetables that Jamaicans consume daily.

He says the move will also serve to boost exports. “What you do, as well, is to introduce the guest to certain foods and fruits that we produce here. When the guest goes back to Europe, for example, they now can purchase these exotic foods in the supermarkets, because most supermarkets in Europe now have what is called an “ethnic corner”, so you are promoting exports,” he points out.

Mr. Grizzle, who also operates the Charela Inn in Negril, says that there is opportunity for agro-processing as well.

“Apart from the fresh (produce) that we consume, there is agro-processing, which we haven’t touched as yet. So, yes, we may not have oil, but we have a country where we can grow almost anything,” he says.

Vice President of the Hanover-based Veteran Farmers Alliance, Collin Johnson, tells JIS News that there is clear opportunity for farmers in gastronomy tourism, especially if they get easier access to capital.

“It will revive the agricultural sector. People will see tourism working for them. Many people plant, but do not have a ready market because they do not plant with a plan in place. But if they know for sure that there is a market for their produce, they will produce and see the economic benefits and increase their acreage,” Mr. Johnson says.

At a recent press briefing in Montego Bay, Mr. Bartlett reiterated the Government’s thrust to position Jamaica as a culinary tourism destination as part of the growth thrust.

He said the move would boost agricultural production in Jamaica and could, in fact, become the “salvation” of commodities such as coffee, which was once highly competitive on the world market.

With the hotel room count in Jamaica projected to grow to 40,000 within the next five years, and a concomitant five million visitors expected to visit the island’s shores, Mr. Bartlett said the demand for produce such as eggs, poultry, fresh fruits and vegetables, oils, jams, jellies, nectars and coffee “would be enormous”.

He noted further that with Jamaica being home to a plethora of international hotel brands, which also have other resorts based throughout the Caribbean, another market opportunity exists for farmers to supply resort areas outside of the country.

“There is a special demographic out there that deals with organic foods, for example, that deals with farm-to-table experiences and for which they pay significantly,” he pointed out.

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