NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar and Minister of Agriculture Michael Pintard recently signed a memorandum of understanding to launch a new initiative aimed at engendering a “viable and visible linkage” between local farmers and fishermen and the hospitality industry.
The collaboration is the result of an initiative of the Tourism Development Corporation, which hailed the collaboration as a “groundbreaking strategic alliance”.
“Even though the proposed agritourism initiative was in the works, being advanced by both ministers respectively, the COVID-19 pandemic was really the catalyst that propelled this much-needed strategic alliance along,” a statement by the Tourism Development Corporation read.
“Vital tourism linkages took on greater significance as Bahamian farmers and fisher entrepreneurs experienced the devastating effects of the public health crisis.”
The statement said an “urgent demand study” was conducted and identified 70 crops for local farmers to supply the tourism industry and local grocers.
“The Ministry of Agriculture enhanced its operation to support this important undertaking by putting in place the infrastructure including a cadre of newly hired extension officers with expertise to direct the process,” it stated.
D’Aguilar also commented on the aim of producing a “trickle down” effect from tourism by joining forces with other industries.
“It is imperative that we foster the linkages with other sectors of our economy in order to ensure that there is direct trickle down from tourism into the hands of Bahamians,” he said.
“Agritourism as a vehicle to elevate our farmer entrepreneurs and to give them opportunities to benefit from a much bigger market with regular income to sustain and improve the quality of their livelihoods. I envisioned chefs making use of the locally sourced jams, jellies and pepper sauces in their recipes and visitors being able to purchase the items in the hotel gift shops and/or online as souvenir reminders of their visit.”
He added: “We will see new, experiential tours to the pineapple fields in Eleuthera, as well as culinary tours to home gardens and the emergence of innovative features like aquaponics and hydroponic farming tours.”
Pintard, meanwhile, “challenged hotels to increase the ratio of local fresh produce purchases by 40 percent to abate the need for imports of goods that could be grown here at home”.
He also encouraged Bahamian farmers to commit to supporting the initiative by growing and perfecting the shapes and flavors of their produce in ways that are actually required for the sophistication of the tourism industry rather than continuing to grow items that are not likely to yield a good return.
“While we welcome the advantages that a company like Sysco Bahamas Food Services provides the tourism sector, we also want to encourage Bahamian investors to form groups and explore these types of possibilities, such as the development of more organic chicken farms, and pig farming,” Pintard said.
“We’ve put the government’s abattoir and the canning factories in the Family Islands on the market for interested entrepreneurs to joint venture on, with funding assistance from the government.”
The Agritourism Committee will be co-chaired by Mark Humes, MP and chairman of Bahamas Agricultural Health & Food Safety Authority (BAHFSA), and Janet Johnson, CEO/executive director of the Tourism Development Corporation (TDC), according to the statement.
“The chairs will invite key stakeholders and technical organizations, including the Bahamas Hotel & Tourism Association, together with agricultural entities such as IICA and CARDI to participate,” it noted.
The statement also read: “Agritourism has been given its wings… Ultimately, this initiative will result in the significant reduction in the nation’s import bill and by extension its GDP.”