Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
NEW OPPORTUNITIES seem to be on the horizon for St Ann farmers as a result of Jamaica Product Exchange (Japex) 2012. Talks are to be held between the farmers and the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) which could see hotels buying more Jamaican foods.
For the first two decades, the emphasis of Japex, staged by the JHTA and the Jamaica Tourist Board, has been on tourism and its main players, the visible proponents of the industry, such as tour operators, travel agents, hoteliers and attraction operators, among others.
A strategic move last year by the organisers to involve Jamaica Promotions (Jampro) has seen invitations being extended to companies/organisations which offer support services to the tourist industry outside of the aforementioned. These included manufacturers and suppliers of services.
Last year, Jampro, through its business linkages programme, facilitated the signing of contracts valued over J$100 million, with the aim of increasing that figure at Japex 2012.
This year, for the first time, farmers of St Ann were represented at a Japex event, as the government agency, Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) participated in the event, mounting a booth at the staging of the event, staged over three days from September 30 at Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort and Spa in Ocho Rios.
"The objective of RADA's involvement was to create an avenue for our producers and agro processors who are close to the industry," RADA parish manager for St Ann, Donald Robinson, told The Gleaner on Wednesday.
At the event, fresh produce were on display, such as sweet pepper, hot pepper, cucumber and tomato and several processed foods. The booth attracted scores of visitors and responses were quite favourable.
"I should think the objectives were achieved. We got support and lots of commendations regarding the quality of the products we had on display," said Robinson. "The outcome from all of this is that the people from the JHTA want to have a follow-up session to see how we can strengthen ties between RADA, the farmers and the hotels."
Most of the produce on display were grown using greenhouse technology which several farmers in the parish are now employing, as it facilitates year-round production.
Japex 2012 was a success all-round. Sales and marketing manager for the Sunset Resorts Group, which includes host hotel, Sunset Jamaica Grande, Tanesha Clarke, has expressed delight with the staging of the event and its impact on the group.
"It has been wonderful, we were able to have a lot of productive meetings, met with a lot of our partners, we've been able to cement some deals and further strengthen working relationships with our partners," Clarke said. As a hotel group, our business has increased, as it has increased for Jamaica, over last year. We're absolutely pleased," he added.
Meanwhile, Vana Taylor, chairperson for JHTA Ocho Rios/Runaway Bay Chapter, said Japex 2012 reviews have been good.
"We have heard nothing but good reviews and it was a team effort, as you know, and we must commend Sunset Jamaica Grande, Clifton (Reader, general manager) and the team for doing an outstanding job in hosting Japex," Taylor told The Gleaner on Wednesday. "Thanks to all the teams, the volunteers, the agencies the civic and business communities that joined with us to support and execute another superb Japex, certainly in the chapter's estimation."
In a release issued on Wednesday, the organisers hailed Japex 2012 as a "major success".