Monday, February 2, 2009


"When you go to France, you eat French bread, when you go to India you eating roti, why when people come to the Caribbean are they not eating our food?" she asked. "Eating is a key factor in vacation experiences... tourism people say culinary tourism is the hottest trend."

By INDERIA SAUNDERS,Guardian Business Reporter,

A regional agrotourism expert charges The Bahamas is now frittering away opportunities to deepen the economy, arguing the slowdown as the best time to connect farming with tourism.

"Farmers must attract (buyers) during the 'soft time'... it makes no sense for our food to stay and ruin when we could be doing something with it," IDB consultant Ena Harvey told industry representatives yesterday at an Inter-American Institute for Cooperation of Agriculture (IICA) event. "But there is a disconnect.

"There are farmers who [farm] just because they love it, but they can't find a market [to sell their produce to], but then the hotels say they can't find food."

It's a situation the specialist suggests the country move to correct by creating an order system whereby local farmers are directly able to inform hoteliers of their available product and make deals accordingly. The hope is that improved communication will lead to a boon for the farming industry. It could also put The Bahamas on the world map as more than just a place for sun, sand and sea.

"When you go to France, you eat French bread, when you go to India you eating roti, why when people come to the Caribbean are they not eating our food?" she asked. "Eating is a key factor in vacation experiences... tourism people say culinary tourism is the hottest trend."

With a step-up in domestic farming, she said, The Bahamas could make significant cuts to a $400 million annual import bill, a longstanding objective for government. It would also protect foreign reserve levels by reducing the need for US currency to buy American produce.

Some of that savings could and should then be reinvested in farming and the culinary tourism sector dubbed "agritainment". That nonce word, she explains, also covers the kind of investment transforming historical buildings into tourism sites. A prime example is the government ongoing plans to transform Nassau's Collins House into a tourist attraction.

While agrotourism is primarily focused on exploiting agriculture to grow and diversify tourism, it also looks to tie in all facets of a destination's history and culture.

Harvey's talk comes as local initiatives attempt to ready local farmers to ramp up profitability by providing training on how to improve their business models and better compete with foreign producers. They generally enjoy better economies of scale, with a lower price point attached to their wares.

One program, part of a technical cooperation project largely funded by $120,000 in seed money, was backed by the IDB. That international agency contributed $84,000 in the form of a grant, with the Bahamas Agriculture Producers Association (BAPA) covering the balance.

BAPA President IG Stubbs told Guardian Business in an earlier interview that the initiative is greatly needed to sustain his struggling industry. That's true as it moves to become the first choice for resorts kitchens.

"Agriculture can become one of the economic pillars of The Bahamas, by linking it to tourism in terms of the production of food and the consumption of local produce in the hotels," he said. "It has been determined that we spend about $300 million on the importation of food, much of which can be grown here, much of which was grown here."

In order to improve the industry, local farmers who are not presently up to global industry standards, will have to be trained over an 18-month period in a number of areas, including the development of market intelligence systems.

Copyright © 2006 The Nassau Guardian. All rights reserved.


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