May 7, 2010
Agro Tourism in St. Vincent?

Several public and private stakeholders converged at the Murray Heights Hotel on Thursday, April 22, 2010, for the OECS Agro Tourism workshop on Capacity Building and Seal of Quality.{{more}}

The project seeks to strengthen the livelihood chains that serve both the Agriculture and Tourism sectors through the evaluation of the livelihood chains, capacity building and the establishment of a Seal of Quality for agri-food and non agri- food.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Minister of Agriculture Montgomery Daniel noted some of the challenges faced by the Agriculture industry over the years.

Mentioning the Banana industry as once being the ‘green gold of the Caribbean’, Daniel stated that today, the industry is “being strangled by numerous challenges causing the industry to be seeking constant clinical attention.”

This, he added, has caused many Banana farmers to become idle and has caused the movement of rural people to the urban areas to seek employment.

Admitting that the tourism sector has surpassed the agriculture sector in its contribution to the GDP of the country, Daniel noted that he believes that agriculture is still the best option for growth in the rural economy. Daniel, however, noted that by working together, both industries can benefit greatly from the collaboration.

Giving remarks at the ceremony, Minster of Tourism Glen Beache stated that the project is one that the Ministry considers very important. Noting that not many people in St. Vincent may know about the concept of agro-tourism, Beache added that he considers St. Vincent the most fertile Caribbean island. “I don’t think there is another country that is more fertile or has better farming lands than St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”

Beache further stated that enough has not been done to make both sectors work in hand, adding that the project is a good step towards making sure that it happens.

OECS Secretariat representative George Alcee stated that the OECS expects the activities to lead to the generation of a consensus on the actions that need to be taken by private and public sectors to strengthen the production and marketing linkages between the agriculture and tourism industry.

Alcee stated that many challenges have been documented about the qualities of goods and services in the agriculture tourism sector market, but assessed that one way to curb these problems is to establish a common set of standards to guide the production and distribution and sales of goods and services.

Alcee informed the participants that during the workshop they will receive information on the OECS work in relation to strengthening the agriculture tourism linkages. “More importantly, you are here to share with us your knowledge, ideas and experiences on how you would work together to strengthen these linkages, expand the value and improve the standards of trade between agriculture and tourism,” he added.

Chief Agricultural Officer Rueben Robertson, also making remarks, spoke about the setting of national standards for farmers and the certification of farmers making it easier for them to trade.(OS)