A sustained effort is now being pursued by the tourism ministry to ensure that Jamaican farmers reap the full benefits of the industry.

Speaking at the official opening of the Grand-a-View Restaurant and Event Place in Montego Bay on Saturday night, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett said the upsurge in tourist arrivals and the projected increase in room stock, particularly, on the northwest coast, has enabled the industry to better penetrate the economy and influence food consumption patterns, which must be leveraged “for great effect”.

Bartlett promised that food tourism was going to be the major drive for Jamaica’s hospitality sector. He argued that this experience must be owned by the people of Jamaica, not foreigners.

“It is our food, it is our agricultural produce, it is our creativity, it is our ability to weave these ethnic strains and elements of ethnicity into [something] that is so delectable and so acceptable to the palates of all the world, because every country in the world can taste a little piece of their food in the Jamaican food,” the minister added.

He said a strategy has been implemented to circumvent the downturn in coffee exports, through the promotion of the product via the island’s cruise terminals, “where every cruise visitor will get a promotional cup of coffee, upon arrival in order to boost sales”.

As a consequence, Bartlett said that the Tourism Linkages Network will spend more than $300 million in the new fiscal year on cementing agricultural linkages and other activities to benefit what he described as ordinary Jamaicans.

He said this initiative will begin with the reimaging the Lilliput community in St James, which will be home to close to 3,000 rooms by year end. Coupled with at least 2,000 more slated for the neighbouring Rose Hall area, Bartlett said this will result in a demand for Jamaican food and other goods and services from persons within the area, including personal-care providers such as hair braiders and barbers.