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Tourism stakeholders say yes to agro-parks in western Jamaica

Published:Thursday | November 20, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Mark Hart

Christopher Thomas, Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

TOURISM AND hospitality stakeholders in western Jamaica are embracing the plans by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to establish four new agro-parks in the western region over the next five years.

Among those stakeholders supportive of the ministry's plans is executive chairman of Caribbean Producers Jamaica, Mark Hart, who said the venture would provide an opportunity for collaboration between the hotel industry and local farmers.

"I think it is critical that they establish these agro-parks in the west because, obviously, the hospitality sector is based in this area, and you have to have a community of collaboration in terms of resources, where there is a common objective of these farmers to produce for their sector," said Hart, whose company acts as an integrated food service distributor for the hospitality industry.

"I think of the Montpelier area, the places that have historically been farm communities ... it would be wonderful if they could subdivide the area into small farms, put in some irrigation, and create a wonderful little farm community with the agro-parks nearby ... it is a tremendous opportunity, and we can do it here," Hart added.

High-quality crops

Omar Robinson, general manager of the Round Hill Hotel and Villas, St James, said the agro-parks would provide a consistent supply of high-quality crops for hotels.

"As the hotel industry expands, and especially in the larger all-inclusive hotels, there is a need to have a constant supply of high-quality, locally produced fruits and vegetables, so we can only get positive results, to have the government set up these agro-farms (agro-parks)," said Robinson.

"We need to have a consistent supply, and that is where our issue lies with the local industry, we have it sometimes and other times we don't have it, so it needs to be on a consistent basis in the quantities that we need them ... if the local supply is not there, people are going to go and import, especially in the larger hotels," Robinson pointed out.

The Ministry of Agriculture recently outlined plans to identify suitable lands in St James, Hanover and Westmoreland to build new agro-parks, particularly in rural St James to bolster the local banana industry.

Last week, president of the St James chapter of the Jamaica Agricultural Society, Glendon Harris, had welcomed the move, saying that it would especially revitalise food cultivation in St James.

christopher.thomas@gleanerjm.com