Some hotels and restaurants are continuing to reap success – and farmers are smiling all the way to the bank – under a farm project financed by the Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund.
The $1.4 million project, which started in 2015, links micro and small business farmers to key hotel and restaurans.
Under the project farmers supply the packhouse with produce and are paid under a formal purchasing arrangement. A traceability framework has also been established in order to identify where the products were produced and by which farmer.
Between June 1 and August 31, members of the project execution unit have been able to achieve a number of objectives, said Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Senator Rudy Grant.
But the tourism executive said he wanted to see more hotel and restaurant operators signing up.
“We would certainly like to see this project enhanced,” Grant told the BHTA’s third quarterly meeting as he delivered his report.
“We have 20 hotel and restaurants that have already given a commitment to participate. We want to increase that number,” he said.
Only a quarter of the 20 that have given commitment have so far been involved in the project, which is being facilitated through the Barbados Agriculture Development Management Corporation (BADMC) warehouse.
Business operators are currently in the eighth month of the project, and the number of farmers supplying goods to the warehouse has increased from 80 to 220, based on the standards set by the facility.
Making a case for more tourism industry players to participate and establish more long-term food-buying arrangements, Grant said this partnership had the potential to save the country millions in foreign exchange each year.
“We see this project as one which has significant potential benefits for the hotel members, for farmers, and it will, in a significant way, facilitate the saving of foreign exchange while strengthening the linkage between tourism and agriculture,” said Grant.
A revolving fund was set up by the BADMC to ensure payment to farmers. A grading scheme was also put in place to ensure quality assurance.
For this year up to June 29, farmers supplied 15,550 lbs or cucumbers; 12,212 lbs of butternut squash; 20,929 lbs watermelon; 11,250 lbs green peppers and 3,710 lbs egg plant, according to data released by the project.
In view of this, said Grant, the likelihood of the project achieving its objectives was “highly optimistic”.
But he said “there is still the need to strengthen the business processes within the packaging facility to obtain greater commitment from the hospitality sector”.