Tourism, agriculture ministries open linkage centre to assist farmers

Saturday, December 15, 2018

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IN an effort to boost the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) and increase the consumption of local produce by tourists, the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries have jointly opened an Agri-Linkage Exchange Centre.

The centre, located at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority's St Andrew Parish Office on Old Hope Road, was officially opened on Wednesday after going through a trial for some months.

Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett said the aim of the centre is to register and link more farmers directly with buyers in the hotel industry, and build out the supply side of the tourism sector in the long run.

“This journey, with the use of technology as a critical means of connectivity within the industry, forms part of the broader strategy arrangements of my ministry to link the productive areas of the economy into the tourism demand,” Bartlett said.

He added that this new centre will help to satisfy the increase in demand from tourists for local produce during their visits.

“Each tourist consumes three times the value of the local consumption… and so, in order to satisfy 4.3 million visitors in a given year, our production processes have to increase at least three-fold. Agriculture has a fundamental role to play in satisfying that demand and to create wealth for the country,” the minister said.

Meanwhile, Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw said the opening of the centre shows that the Government is committed to offering support to the farmers, and wants to help them to make a direct connection with purchasers with the use of technology.

“We want to see this programme grow... . We are on the cusp of something exciting for Jamaica. Most of what our tourists eat are flying in on the plane with them… That is unacceptable,” Shaw said.

He pointed out that the centre will help to improve communication between farmers and purchasers, improve the availability of market information, and give farmers feedback that will better influence what they produce.

Already, some farmers and hoteliers have been using the software to make connections and network through a trial run.

One of the farmers who has been using the centre, James Harvey, told JIS News that the software has allowed him to better reach his market.

“As farmers, we have had and continue to have many challenges, and one of them is access to market, quality market, right market, and markets that are available all over — so this linkage has been tremendous. For the short time it has been implemented, I have doubled my output and looking to increase it,” Harvey said.

He noted that he is from St Catherine and the centre has allowed him to make a link with a purchaser in Christiana whom he has supplied, with a good return on his investment.

Purchaser Gary Willoughby said the software has allowed him to access certain produce he needs to supply to others in a timely manner, and to reduce the challenge of scarcity.

“Sometimes there'll be too much of a specific ground provision, sometimes there'll be none. This programme is working so well that I'm having less problems in that area. It's working well,” he said.

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