Agro-tourism stakeholders welcome gastronomy thrust
The Government's move to promote Jamaica as agastronomy tourism destination is being welcomed by stakeholders in western Jamaica, who see the push as having the potential to transform rural communities while making agriculture a production powerhouse.
Farmer and hotel operator, Daniel Grizzle, said that gastronomy tourism will close the gap that exists between agriculture and tourism as farmers produce more high-value fruits and vegetables to meet the demands of visitors.
This will cut down on food imports and save the country much-needed foreign exchange.
"Tourism is an export industry. Agriculture complements tourism because the guests come, we feed them and they pay the country in foreign exchange. So, you are earning foreign exchange indirectly as we don't have to use foreign exchange to import the food to feed guests," he notes.
Grizzle says the marketing of Jamaica as a gastronomy tourism destination is a pragmatic move, as Caribbean cuisine is gaining popularity across Europe.
TRANSFORMING RURAL ECONOMIES
He argues that if farmers are able to have these guaranteed markets, then the rural economies would be totally transformed, as, based on his observations, a typical tourist will eat about three times the amount of fruits and vegetables that Jamaicans consume daily.
He says the move will also serve to boost exports. "What you do, as well, is to introduce the guest to certain foods and fruits that we produce here. When the guest goes back to Europe, for example, they now can purchase these exotic foods in the supermarkets, because most supermarkets in Europe now have what is called an "ethnic corner", so you are promoting exports," he points out.
Grizzle,who also operates the Charela Inn in Negril, says that there is opportunity for agro-processing as well.
"Apart from the fresh (produce) that we consume, there is agro-processing, which we haven't touched as yet. So, yes, we may not have oil, but we have a country where we can grow almost anything," he says.