Transactions on the Agri-Linkages Exchange (ALEX) have generated $1 billion in sales by small farmers while tourism loan disbursements through the National Export-Import (EXIM) Bank have also surpassed $1 billion for 2023.
These developments were announced by Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett during the Ministry of Tourism’s annual Strategic Planning Retreat, held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre from October 25 to October 26.
He underscored the increased impact of the tourism value chain on Jamaican small businesses as a significant outcome.
"We're very proud to share that the mid-year review of tourism’s performance indicates that we have reached the billion-dollar mark with market transactions on the ALEX platform. These are small farmers with three -acre and four-acre lots, as well as backyard farming selling to local hotels and restaurants. So, we are excited about what is happening there in terms of the Jamaican tourism dollar penetrating to the small and medium tourism enterprises," Bartlett said.
The ALEX platform is a collaborative initiative between the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority which has revolutionised the interaction between hoteliers and farmers.
The tourism minister noted that the platform has significantly improved the access small farmers have to procurement arrangements at hotels and restaurants throughout Jamaica, thereby enhancing the local agricultural landscape.
"Another signal of our strong performance is that we have reached the billion-dollar mark for disbursements for the year so far from EXIM Bank. When we add that to what has been disbursed since the programme’s origin, we have now disbursed over $2 billion to small and medium tourism enterprises across Jamaica. Four hundred and 39 small companies have benefited from this programme," Bartlett said.
The Small and Medium Tourism Enterprises (SMTE) loan facility, managed by the TEF, and facilitated through the EXIM Bank, plays a pivotal role in enhancing the resilience and capacity of SMTEs in the tourism sector. This initiative has empowered business operators with access to financing of up to $25 million at an attractive interest rate of 4.5 per cent for five years.
Meanwhile, Bartlett expressed optimism that as the sector continues to recover the tourism value chain will significantly impact more SMTEs.
“This month of October is the best October in the history of Jamaica. We are now closing in on 200,000 visitors in the month of October and that is unprecedented as October is usually one of our slowest months,” he said.
“September and October are when hotels would usually close off and people would go on leave, and we would do refurbishing. This September and October, no such thing, the hotels have been active, and the jobs are still there and strong, and earnings for the ordinary Jamaican have been strong as well," Bartlett emphasised.