News Date: September 29 2016
“By importing so much food, small island developing states – SIDS – are basically exporting jobs”. This was the message of CTA Director Michael Hailu at the recently held Brussels Briefing on “Agribusiness development in SIDS: the potential of tourism-related markets”. The Briefing delivered a strong impetus for the strengthening of linkages between local agri-food and tourism sectors, in order to support sustainable economic development and employment, and reduce the dependence on cheap imported foods which has led to dangerous rates of non-communicable diseases in many SIDS.
Over 140 participants attended the Brussels Briefing on the morning of 21 September at the ACP Secretariat to join a panel of experts discussing the opportunities and successful approaches for linking agribusinesses and producers to tourism markets in small island economies across Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. Among the speakers at the event were three-star chefs who have significantly contributed to promoting local cuisines and foods in their respective regions. For them, the Briefing was an important platform to demonstrate the role of chefs as key players for achieving more profitable and resilient agri-food systems in SIDS.
Robert Oliver, chef, author and television presenter from the Pacific, spoke passionately about the need to preserve, promote and innovate on local food traditions, not only for domestic consumers, but importantly also for tourists. This will have a directly positive impact for local farmers, producers and agri-food businesses, many of which face significant challenges to compete against imported goods. “When local food is in tourism, it creates a whole raft of activities; it becomes tourism for everybody, from the coco oil-makers to the cocoa Samoa makers, to the jam and jelly-makers” Chef Oliver added.
“I want to look at a plate of food that goes with a view – an approach that goes beyond the plate and beyond the recipe. It’s an approach that is designed to empower chefs and stimulate economies to reclaim tradition and health – and I call this the power of cuisine.”
Chef Robert oliver
Executive Chef Peter Edey from Barbados developed a programme for young chefs to compete by cooking high quality, beautifully presented dishes using local vegetables and products from a mystery basket. This encourages the next generation of Caribbean chefs to recognise the value and potential of home grown flavours.
“We as chefs drive this programme and we are aware of the tremendous responsibility that we have been given… At the end of the day everything that farmers produce, that they manufacture, will then have to be put on a plate by the chefs. How it tastes, how it looks, how it is presented, is going to be done by the chefs, so this is why chefs play an important role”.
Chef Peter Edey
In Haiti, Stephan Berrouet Durand, Executive Chef of Culinary by Design, champions a number of important initiatives to promote local gastronomy and the relationship between agriculture and chefs. In addition to his involvement in the establishment of a local culinary association, a food and wine festival and the Haiti Gastronomy Month, Chef Stephan is now part of an exciting new development to link Chefs with local farmers using a mobile app.
“The chefs are now able to go onto that app and discover who is producing what, and be able to go to see them, and talk about exactly the type of produce they want to use in their restaurants and their hotels.”
Chef Stephan Berrouet Durand
This brings new opportunities for both parties; according to Chef Stephan “We [chefs] are able to work with these farmers, and they are able to tell us ‘These are the products that we have, this is how much we produce, and this is how you’re going to be able to purchase with us'”.
Small island developing states in the Caribbean and Pacific are some of the countries most dependent on food imports worldwide; in fact, the annual food import bill of the Caribbean region totals over $4 billion – in some SIDS food imports make up 50% of all imports, many times higher than the world average of 7%. The tourism sector, which contributes between 14% and 30% of GDP in SIDS is also a significant contributor to this food import bill, as hotels, resorts, cruise ships, hospitality and entertainment facilities spend millions to ensure that there is a constant supply of food for guests, visitors and staff.
The Briefing constituted an important opportunity to take stock of the progress in agritourism development ACP SIDS, particularly in respect to landmark initiatives which CTA has supported. Howard Aru, Director General of Ministry of Agriculture in Vanuatu, noted the achievements of the Vanuatu Agritourism Policy Setting, for which CTA provided significant support, and which has since led to Vanuatu’s commitment to develop the Pacific’s first ever Agritourism Policy, and has also attracted the interest of regional partners with financing.
Samoa, which recently held the Second Pacific Agribusiness Forum, has also made significant strides to link the agribusiness and tourism sectors. For Charlotte Chan Mow – Brunt, the General Manager of the Orator Hotel, Samoa’s private sector can do more to reflect the local pride in Pacific culture, history and food in its activities, and the tourist sector has a lot to benefit from the agriculture and food heritage of the region. Papali’i Sonja Hunter, CEO, Samoa Tourism Authority and Chair of the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO), emphasised the importance of agritourism in the region’s future. She further encouraged CTA to present its work with SIDS to the Tourism Ministers of the Pacific region.
“It’s really important for us, as Samoa and as the Pacific, to look at building an agritourism strategy”.
Papali’i Sonja Hunter
The need to advance intra-SIDS dialogue and cooperation was a point further emphasised by Ena Harvey, Expert in Agritourism, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), who has had the opportunity to work with the Pacific island countries, notably Vanuatu, both in her home region of the Caribbean, but also through her participation in CTA co-organised forums in the Pacific. Through this collaboration, best practices in agritourism can be shared between the various islands, such as the importance of investing in quality, standards and certification in the agriculture sector, without which local producers cannot service the hospitality industry. Harvey was also keen to encourage innovative financiers to look to agritourism, culinary tourism and the like, as an exciting opportunity to invest in.
“Many of our SMEs do not have the standard collateral instruments, and we need the business angels and the crowdfunding and that type of out-of-the-box financing”.