Published: Monday | October 4, 2010
Senator Norman Grant (right), and Hugh Blackwood of the Jamaica Agricultural Society, look at food products with Donovan Stanberry (left), permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, at an Agri-Investment Expo and seminar dubbed, ‘Investing in Agriculture for Attractive Returns. Tourism interests say hotels should buy local produce to help develop local agriculture and econimic growth. – Rudolph Brown/Chief Photographer
An initiative which could significantly reduce Caribbean hotels huge reliance on imported foods while saving foreign exchange is being given serious consideration by at least one regional tourism body.
The Caribbean Media Exchange (CMEx) on Sustainable Tourism, which last week stage a series of meetings in Kingston, says it is seeking to launch a programme which encourages local small farmers to grow crops for the hotel industry.
“The biggest complaint from tourists in any part of the world is that there’s not enough local food,” said CMEx Vice-President LeLei Lelaulu.
LeLauLu said most of the food for the hotel industry in parts of the Caribbean was imported from other places, even as several of these resorts were surrounded by some of the most fertile, arable lands on the planet.
He said CMEx was contemplating launching a “Roots to Restaurant” programme in Jamaica that allowed it to work closely with small farmers in growing produce, which hotels and restaurants needed to feed their guests.
LeLauLu said the region also needed to explore ways of targeting persons in urban and peri-urban areas to grow foods which could be sold to the hotel industry, providing them a chance to participate in the wealth provided by the tourism industry.
‘It gives an opportunity to include youth in this Roots to Restaurants programme by inviting youths at risk to work with older rural farmers for a period of time, get them out of the cities and to give them skills, ” LeLauLu said.
The CMEx VP commended the Jamaica Tourist Board’s (JTB) efforts to include the Jamaican Diaspora in the development of sustainable tourism in the region, noting the importance of including communities in tourism development.