Chairman of the Tourism Linkages Council, Adam Stewart, is calling on hoteliers and other tourism interests, to invest in the local agriculture sector, noting that this is a sure-fire way of enhancing the country's economic development.
He notes that "for too long, we have been ignoring the obvious linkage between two of Jamaica's most important sectors - agriculture and tourism - and the benefits to be had in getting them to work in sync with each other.
"I am today calling on and encouraging all of corporate Jamaica, all of the other hotel brands, locally and foreign-owned, to pay attention to the farmers. Pay attention to the farmers who have a role to play in the growth that the industry is experiencing today. Their (the farmers) success is Jamaica's success, which is the industry's success," said Stewart, who is also chief executive officer of Sandals Resorts International.
Sandals has made an upfront purchase of more than $3 million worth of Irish potato seeds for local farmers, which equates to 1,300 bags, capable of planting 40 to 50 acres. The provision is expected to yield 700,000 pounds of potatoes to supply the Sandals chain.
While five farmers will benefit in this initial phase, the objective is to expand the programme, so that farmers will be the sole providers of Irish potatoes to the entire Sandals group, which comprise 11 resorts in Jamaica.
"The main aim is for Sandals to be 100 per cent supplied with Jamaica-grown Irish potato, with no further reason to import. This is a long-term sustainable programme," Stewart noted. "It is about growing locally, buying locally, and putting these micro and small farmers into business with a guarantee buy-back programme."
He added, "What we are doing here at a starting place should yield some $25 million worth of business to these farmers and move us further and further away from import substitution."