Sandals gets behind local farmers

Spends J$500 million a year on Jamaican produce

Observer writer

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

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Sandals Resorts International (SRI) continues to make a concerted effort to support and buy from the Jamaican farming industry and local manufacturing sector.

Jamaica's leading hotel group spends over $500 million a year which equates to 5.4 million pounds of produce for its hotels.

Speaking at a luncheon in Montego Bay, Sandals' group director, procurement division, Jordan Samuda said: “our Chairman's message has always been to 'buy local', and this is precisely what we do for the vast majority of our produce needs here in Jamaica. Of the 5.4 million pounds of produce that we consume annually… 90 per cent or 5 million pounds is 100 per cent Jamaican. This equates to over $500 million spent with local farmers.”

If the agricultural sector is to make a greater contribution to Jamaica's GDP, then its fortunes would look a lot brighter if the hotel sector decided to buy the majority of its produce from the local sector, rather than import agricultural goods.

This point was not lost on Samuda who declared: “we however feel that whilst Sandals will continue to lead the way in supporting the agricultural sector, we need greater commitment from the wider hotel sector. Sandals has 2,500 rooms in Jamaica, which equates to roughly 2,000 pounds of produce annually per room.

“If we use those numbers to spread across the sector, with roughly 30,000 active hotel rooms the annual impact can very quickly become $6 billion of local produce.”

The argument put forward to rebut this line of thinking is that Jamaican farmers lack consistency, and the quality of their produce can sometimes be suspect. Some of the more recent foreign chains like to purchase from suppliers that they have a pre-existing relationship with, and so forgo Jamaican farmers.

Samuda countered this contention and made it clear that many hoteliers in Jamaica should follow Sandals' lead.

“I often hear complaints about quality and consistency in local supply, but the reality is if Sandals uses 90 per cent local produce and continues to be the leading luxury included resort group in Jamaica… the others have no excuse!”

Sandals is cognizant that it is not enough just to be a purchaser of produce, but that it is incumbent upon the hotel chain to put in place sustainable programmes which will assist farmers to secure valuable inputs, which can be problematic to secure.

Samuda drew attention to Sandals Irish potato initiative, which sees it issuing local farmers with more than $20 million of Irish potato seeds yearly.

“Our goal with this initiative is to ensure that all 800,000 pounds of Irish potato consumed by our resorts is 100 per cent Jamaican. We have just imported and distributed our second container of seeds ,with a third on order expected to arrive in February 2019,.

“We will continue to widen this programme and also develop other creative programmes aimed at providing greater assistance to our farmers,” said the Sandals procurement boss.

Sandals is intent on using as many Jamaican products in all its hotels and not just in Jamaica. It is currently pushing for canned Red Stripe to have a presence in all its resorts across the Caribbean .

Sandals serves as the leading conduit for Jamaican producers in Caribbean markets

Samuda explained: “we are obsessed with the motto of 'Think Globally, Act Locally' and are therefore heavily focused on supporting and expanding our local partnerships which is why at Sandals we not only use Jamaican products in our Jamaican resorts, we use Jamaican products in all our resorts.

“Two of the popular brands we export across the region are Appleton Rum and Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee, but we also export speciality sauces, gift souvenirs and various juices. We are continuously striving to widen our direct and indirect exports of Jamaican products.”

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