Agro-tourism stakeholders welcome gastronomy thrust

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

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ST JAMES, Jamaica (JIS) — 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, told 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 noted.

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

He argued 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 said 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 pointed out.

Grizzle, who also operates the Charela Inn in Negril, said 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 said.

Meanwhile, Vice President of the Hanover-based Veteran Farmers Alliance, Collin Johnson, added 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,” Johnson said.

At a recent press briefing in Montego Bay, 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.

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