The Agribusiness Forum: Linking the agrifood sector to the tourism-related markets, a three-day meeting held in Nadi, Fiji from 1 to 3 July 2015, explored the potential of synergies between agriculture, fisheries and the tourism industry to build sustainable economic growth and resilience in small island communities.
Linking agriculture to other productive sectors is widely seen as a promising development strategy in many Pacific Island countries, at a time when revenues from farming and fishing are in sharp decline and tourism is experiencing steady growth. Total revenues from tourism in the Pacific are expected to nearly double to US$4 billion (€3.58 billion) by 2019.
The first event of its kind to be staged in the region, the Agribusiness Forum was held as part of the Pacific Community Agritourism Week, which ran from 29 June to July 3. The Forum, organised by CTA, together with the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), showcased success stories featuring agripreneurs who have managed to link agrifood to the tourism industry. It also discussed the trade environment and policies in place conducive to agribusiness development and niche markets (i.e. organic products) as well as the role of financial institutions and how to address data gaps in the sector, notably through the use of ICTs such as drones and participatory geo-spatial information systems.
Matching supply and demand
Despite the significant rise in visitors to the Pacific, and the potential this represents for local producers, as much as 80% of the food used in the tourism sector is currently imported. Capturing a larger share of this market for local producers requires a focus on adding value to quality products through certification, branding and label recognition, the Forum heard. A critical component of agribusiness development will involve forging strong public-private partnerships in order to acquire much-needed global financing and creation of a better trade environment across the Pacific and among ACP small island states.
A highlight of the regional event involved a Buyers-Sellers Mart. This innovative event paired smallholder farmers with chefs to explore business opportunities in the hospitality trade, including discussing how best to align farmers’ production with demand in hotels and restaurants and how farmers can meet the need for consistent quality in their produce. Based on the speed-dating format, each pair was given 10 minutes for discussions before moving on to meet with other participants. As a direct result of the sessions, several chefs and producers made business deals to supply hotels and restaurants with fresh local produce.
Similarities between Pacific countries and other ACP small island states – in terms of challenges posed by size, remote location, economic fragility and vulnerability to natural hazards – create valuable opportunities for sharing knowledge and experience. Building on this approach, the Intra ACP Agricultural Policy Programme (Intra-ACP APP) invited participants from Caribbean and Indian Ocean small island states that have succeeded in making the connection between the agrifood and tourist sectors. The Intra-ACP APP expanded programme is under joint technical management of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), CTA, and SPC.
“In the Pacific and Caribbean, there are high levels of food imports and many problems related to nutrition – such as obesity and micronutrient deficiency – as a result of the poor nutritional value of imported foods. These shared challenges can be addressed by increasing the production of local foods. This niche of linking tourism and agriculture creates an opportunity,” said CTA Director Michael Hailu. “The Agribusiness Forum brought together the key players on how to move this forward: policy-makers, farmers’ organisations, the private sector, financial institutions, the media etc. This is a unique partnership that could serve other regions facing similar challenges.”
Private sector support and enabling policies
Five key outcomes emerged from the Agribusiness Forum. These are:
1• Joint action by CTA, PIPSO and SPC to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and companies in the region and in Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The goal is to develop a regional project in support of agribusiness development, together with financial institutions and the European Investment Bank, in collaboration with the ACP Group in Brussels.
2• Developing agritourism policies at national and regional level to promote cross-sectoral linkages and build resilience. The proposal is to start with Vanuatu, working together with CTA and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA). IICA will share experiences in the Caribbean, which has a regional strategy on agritourism.
3• Development of agribusiness platforms with PIPSO to strengthen provision of key business information and data for the SMEs and partners involved in the agribusiness sector.
4• Strengthening agricultural finance for agribusiness value chain through SPC's work with central banks and development banks to create better conditions for value chain finance; the Fiji Development Bank introducing value chain finance, and an ICT-intensive pilot focusing on factoring (receivables finance), to be developed with SPC and PIPSO.
5• Working together with the Chefs for Development platform that CTA and partners are launching with New Zealand chef and author of Pacific recipe books Robert Oliver in the run up to the Commonwealth Summit, due to be held in 2017 in Vanuatu. The platform aims to share effective approaches for promoting local cuisine and produce.
“We all agreed that chefs are a main actor in the value chain, too often forgotten, and that they can be instrumental in engaging the hospitality sector with the local food industry,” said Roy Mickey Joy, Chairman of the ACP Committee of Ambassadors and Ambassador of Vanuatu to the European Union (EU). “We aim at building a strong platform which can serve the food needs of the Summit in 2017, while raising awareness amongst heads of state on the linkages between food and cuisine and the development component.”
A plan of action for small island states
The Nadi declaration made at the end of the Agribusiness Forum agreed to set up a Regional Agritourism Steering Group, made up of partners including CTA, FAO, PIPSO, SPC, the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) and the University of the South Pacific (USP), as well as counterparts in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean. A first objective will be to draw up a Pacific work plan for agritourism by 1 September 2015. The declaration welcomed the new ACP Private Sector Development Strategy launched together with the EU and acknowledged initiatives to promote agritourism taken by the Melanesian Spearhead Group, which is developing a private-sector development strategy and collaborating with the newly established Micronesian Trade and Economic Community.
The Forum called for efforts to strengthen Caribbean-Pacific visibility, including a marketing presence at each other’s regional agribusiness forums and similar events. Specifically, it recommended sharing plans for Caribbean and Pacific initiatives aimed at promoting agritourism, creating an online repository to document case studies, best practices and tools promoting agribusiness and tourism-related markets, and linking this to similar repositories in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and elsewhere.
At national level, the declaration urged conference organisers, chefs and tourism operators to make greater use of local foods and products and agreed to provide support to national events on linking agriculture to the tourism industry. It pledged to support chefs in using local ingredients in visitor menus, advocate for improved fruit and crop lines for farmers and create an accreditation system with the tourism ministries to confirm that an institution or product is meeting a local sourcing target for food and other agriproducts. Excellence awards will be set up for the best village farmers supplying quality fresh local produce and products and sponsors secured to match mentors with young people entering farming as a business.
Other proposals include creating a database of local agribusiness consultants, exploring the development of joint venture roasting and processing facilities in the coffee industry and establishing a regional Pacific seal for select premium products to brand the region at agribusiness events. Agriculture and tourism leaders will be urged to promote agribusiness as a natural fit for priorities in other sectors such as education, health, employment, environment, infrastructure, women and youth and support will be given to agriculture and tourism ministries to research more targeted information on agritourism value chains. A final but important point in the declaration was an agreement to promote the adoption of favourable policies linking agrifood to tourism industries, which support synergies between the two sectors.
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- Document: the Nadi Declaration and the outcomes of the Agribusiness Forum
- Press release: The Agribusiness Forum – a Pacific pledge to harness agritourism for rural development
- Blog: ICT “know-how” to boost AgriBusiness and AgriTourism in PNG
- Photos: Photostream of the Pacific Community Agritourism Week
- Publication: Agricultural value chain guide for the Pacific Islands