Bartlett wants more use of local coffee in hotels

Senior staff reporter

Sunday, January 28, 2018

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Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett has commissioned the Ministry's Tourism Linkages Network (TLN) to increase consumption of coffee locally, by strengthening ties between stakeholders in the coffee and hospitality industries.

The minister's move follows meetings led by chairman of the Tourism Linkages Council, Adam Stewart, with the key stakeholders in the coffee industry to increase the presence of Jamaican coffee in local hotels.

During those meetings, the group discussed the challenges the stakeholders face locally, as well as the strategies that can be developed by the Ministry of Tourism to better leverage the product.

“Under the leadership of our chairman, I know that we can do so much more to celebrate and build out products around the Jamaica Blue Mountain (JBM) coffee, so that it can continue to be a tool to bring more visitors to Jamaica and earn more money for our people. I therefore charge the Linkages Network to get more of our coffee to every visitor who graces our shores and to share our expertise to leverage the JBM coffee,” Bartlett said.

In 2016, the minister appointed the Gastronomy Network, a sub-group of the TLN, to promote and offer support to Jamaican cuisine, under which the Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee falls. The network, which is chaired by Nicola Madden-Greig, has placed special focus on the coffee industry, with projects such as the Blue Mountain Culinary Trail launching earlier this year and the upcoming Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Festival, scheduled for early 2018.

“The Festival and our other culinary projects offer us an opportunity for deepening the linkages between tourism and the agro-processing industry while strengthening the hand of our sales teams in the markets of the world and opening up opportunities for our people to benefit in a direct way from their participation in the tourism experience,” said Minister Bartlett.

The Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Festival will be a three-day event in the Blue Mountain region. It is expected to feature activities such as training and development seminars for coffee farmers; coffee farm and factory tours; culinary tours and experiences; and a coffee exhibition. International coffee buyers will also be invited to attend the festival.

“I want us to build a coffee experience like no other for our visitors and locals to enjoy. It is my vision to bring thousands of visitors annually to destination Jamaica to experience the gastronomy tourism as we utilise various elements of it that are endemic to different geographic areas. What better start than our famous JBM coffee, which is synonymous with Brand Jamaica?” said Minister Bartlett.

He also noted that a key part of the strategy being developed is to ensure that more of the earnings from the industry are retained locally to aid in increasing the productivity level of coffee.

“Not only do food festivals attract visitors, thus stimulating tourism, but they also promote growth and create more business opportunities for people in the communities. Currently 30 per cent of every dollar is retained and it is expected to improve to 40 per cent, bringing the country closer to the projections of US$2 billion in net earnings by 2020. However, in order for us to see greater retention of the tourism dollars, we have to own more of the consumption side of tourism and build the capacity of our people to deliver on the experience,” he said.

The TLN is a division within the tourism ministry, which was developed to increase the consumption of goods and services that can be competitively sourced locally, while also generating and retaining the country's foreign exchange earning potential.

In a message sent to the launch due to his involvement with a press briefing at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF), portfolio minister, Karl Samuda, said that for agriculture to be sustainable, the country must ensure that its products and produce have consistent access to viable markets, including the expanding tourism/hospitality market.

“Our goal is that, ultimately, we should no longer need to import coffee beans into Jamaica,” he said.

Chairman of the Jamaica Coffee Exporters Association (JCEA), Norman Grant, said statistics from the Coffee Industry Board (CIB) indicate that the local industry was estimated to value between US$50 million and US$60 million in 2017.

He said that global coffee exports were estimated at some US$20 billion, and was a huge industry made up mainly of coffee drinkers in industrialised countries.

He said that the local industry last year produced US$17 million in exports, which was down from the US$25 million of the previous year, but has begun growing again.

MP for coffee-growing East Rural St Andrew, Juliet Holness said that the farmers in the constituency were looking forward to the festival.

“The farmers are serious about the reputation of the Jamaican coffee, the taste of our coffee and the sustainability of our coffee for our people,” she said.

The event was hosted by the chairman of the Gastronomy Network of the Tourism Linkages Network, Nicola Madden-Greig.

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