The international tourism sector is a vibrant and growing one, with 598 million international tourist arrivals in the first half of 2017 alone. This was an increase of 6.4 % in comparison to the same period of the previous year. The Caribbean benefited from this increase in tourist arrivals as the region experienced a 5.2% increase in international arrivals for the same period (UNWTO, CTO, 2017). The countries of the Caribbean have traditionally been agriculturally based economies, built on the export of sugar, bananas, coffee, cocoa, rice and citrus. Since the 1970’s, the contribution of agriculture to the economic output of most Caribbean nations has significantly declined, with the exception of Guyana, Belize, Dominica, Jamaica and St. Vincent & the Grenadines. With the rise of globalization and the removal of preferential trading agreements, Caribbean agriculture has found it challenging to remain competitive in both domestic and export markets. This lack of competitiveness has resulted in a continuous increase of food imports into the region. Furthermore, tourism has replaced agriculture as a major income earner for several Caribbean countries.
Made popular by their beautiful beaches and warm weather, the countries of the Caribbean have found it necessary to diversify their tourism products as more destinations have emerged across the globe, offering similar packages of sun, sea and sand. The prominence of tourism has further accentuated the level of food imports entering the region, as hotels and restaurants have intentionally crafted dishes which are reflective of European and North American cuisine. Some studies have reported that leakages have been as high as 75% in some Caribbean nations. However, it must be noted that this high level of leakages is not solely attributed to food production. Nevertheless, this severe impact on Caribbean economies has strengthened the position of agritourism as a sustainable means of diversification. Across the region, initiatives have been made by both the public and the private sector, but the necessary policy support is absent in most countries.
As agritourism continues to develop, the necessary policies need to be developed and enacted to guide and assist actors in the sector as it continues to grow. CTA and IICA have conducted a study with the primary objective of mapping the existing intersectoral linkages between agriculture and tourism in the Caribbean region and identifying where the creation of an enabling policy environment is needed to leverage investments and public partnerships to promote agritourism and its’ value chains, improve agricultural productivity and to scale up local sourcing.
To determine the Caribbean countries with the highest levels of performance in both agriculture and tourism, a survey was developed and distributed among Caribbean countries; World Bank statistics were used and a weighted Agri-Tourism Performance Index was created to be used as an indicator of a country’s potential to develop a viable agritourism sector.
Ten (10) countries were selected primarily on the basis of the performance of their agriculture and tourism sectors
In the first phase (2018-2019), six countries will receive support from CTA and IICA to develop their agritourism sectors: Grenada, Jamaica, Barbados, St. Lucia, Suriname and St. Vincent & the Grenadines. Along with targeting specific niche markets such as agri- ecotourism and culinary tourism, common issues which need to be addressed under policy include: the quantity, quality and consistency of supply of produce to hotels and restaurants; innovative payment schemes to farmers and suppliers of food; the sustainable management of agricultural lands and focus on quality food; and the development of marketing information systems.
Chadeene Roett, Consultant