Bartlett urges farmers to produce more as new hotels open up Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

With the number of hotel rooms locally expected to reach 40,000 in the next five years, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett is challenging local farmers to increase their food production.

Bartlett made the call while delivering the keynote address at the recent launch of an Agricultural Suppliers Food Safety Manual at Devon House in St Andrew.

He highlighted that with the rapid growth of the hospitality sector, the need for agricultural produce will increase significantly.

“We want you to grow more,” Bartlett told farmers at the event.

“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 said.

Currently, Bartlett said the demand for agricultural produce in the tourism sector is about $67 billion.

With this in mind, he highlighted that the 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”.

According to Bartlett, fresh foods are always welcomed, pointing to 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 $1,600,000.

He elaborated that, “Their (the farmers) annual revenue amounts to $11,200,000 for the next six to seven months, with approximately $2,794,000 going into operating expenses.”

Meanwhile, the Tourism 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.

Further, 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 informed farmers of a water tank project which has enabled 70 tanks to be provided to farmers in St Elizabeth and St James.

This, he said, is to assist those farmers with crop production during the drought season.

In the meantime, the Agricultural Suppliers Food Safety Manual is to serve as an information resource for farmers, agri-processors and manufacturers who supply the tourism sector.

It sets out procedures that adhere to international food safety standards, and was developed by several stakeholders, including from the tourism, health, manufacturing and agricultural sectors.