KINGSTON, Jamaica — The country’s farmers are being urged to increase food production to supply demand in the hospitality sector, which is expected to double over the next five years.
Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, in making the call, noted that with the number of hotel rooms expected to reach 40,000 in five years, it is also anticipated that the need for produce will expand.
He noted that the current demand for agricultural produce in the sector is about $67 billion.
As such, he said that opportunity exists for farmers to invest to increase earnings, provide employment, save foreign exchange spent on imports, and ensure that tourists can eat fresh Jamaican food.
“We want you to grow more. By the time we finish [hotel construction projects], the rooms are going to be doubled, so the demand for agriculture is going to at least double in the next five years,” he pointed out.
Bartlett was delivering the keynote address at the recent launch of an Agricultural Suppliers Food Safety Manual at Devon House in St Andrew.
He cited the supply to hotels of fresh fruits, such as strawberries, as a lucrative opportunity.
He reported that farmers with three or more strawberry houses have indicated that they are currently selling the fruit at $1,000 per pound to hotels, purveyors, and supermarkets, and they reap an average of 1,600 pounds per month, which brings them revenue of $1.6 million.
“Their annual revenue amounts to $11,200,000 for the next six to seven months, with approximately $2,794,000 going into operating expenses,” he pointed out.
The Ministry continues to connect farmers and buyers through the Agri-Linkages Exchange (ALEX) project, with the platform used to supply more than $125 million worth of produce between January and October.
In addition, community farming projects, successfully executed in Westmoreland, St Catherine, St James, and St Elizabeth, benefit approximately 130 farmers, who have since registered with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and are supplying ALEX.
Bartlett said there is also a water tank project, which has enabled 70 tanks to be provided to farmers in St Elizabeth and St James, to assist with crop production during the drought season.
The Agricultural Suppliers Food Safety Manual sets out procedures that adhere to international food-safety standards and will serve as an information resource for farmers, agri-processors, and manufacturers who supply the tourism sector.
It was developed in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Bureau of Standards Jamaica, RADA, the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association, tourism stakeholders, and the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
The manual is expected to further build the capacity of farmers who supply the ALEX platform and the manufacturers who participate in programmes and events like Christmas in July, the Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Festival, and health and wellness conferences and workshops.