Government is seeking to increase business between the tourism industry and the agricultural and manufacturing sectors, in a bid to boost the economy.
Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill, says the linkages will boost local production and help to reduce the country’s import bill.
Dr. McNeill was speaking at a stakeholders’ consultation at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston on Thursday, February 28, where the linkages between the tourism and agricultural sectors were explored. A consultation with the manufacturing sector was held last year.
The Minster noted that everyone was looking to tourism as the driver of economic growth in the country, but greater effort has to be made to ensure that “our homegrown produce and manufactured goods are used in the sector to ensure that the country retains more of what it earns.”
To ensure this happens, a Task Force has been created with representatives from Tourism, Ministry of Agriculture, Jamaica Agricultural Society, Jamaica Manufacturers Association and other entities to work together in a bid to better serve the various sectors.
Dr. McNeill also reported that there will be a unit established within the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment that will facilitate the linkages.
“We are going to pull all the discussions we have had with agriculture and manufacturing, with other areas, such as entertainment and transport, and what we will be doing is putting in place a policy document that deals specifically with deepening the linkages between tourism and all the other areas of our society,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), President, Senator Norman Grant, welcomed the initiative, calling it a “game changer” and a huge opportunity to grow the economy by engaging the large and small farmers.
The Senator pointed out that the tourism sector’s current overall consumption of local fresh produce, fruits and meats is at 10 per cent. He proposes an incentive to the hotels that use locally grown produce.
Senator Grant noted that the Jamaican farmers have the capacity to produce a substantial amount of the $1.5 billion worth of food that is imported in the country.