Agriculture, forestry and fishing have traditionally been the most important sources of livelihoods for Pacific island countries (PICs) and their rural households, however in Vanuatu, tourism now generates most of the earnings. Imported food products are a significant cost for the country and for the tourism sector. In 2015 the World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) funded a survey that showed almost €12 million were spent on fresh produce by Vanuatu's restaurants and resorts, of which 54% was imported. Vanuatu's import bill rose 11% between 2011 and 2014. The food and live animal import bill alone was over €46 million in 2014, 20% of the total import bill for the country.
However, Vanuatu has the natural and cultural potential to link the agricultural sector with tourism, to increase opportunities for domestic earnings, create new markets and products and therefore sustain economic growth and local jobs.
Key issues in agritourism policy-setting
Several key issues need to be considered in developing agritourism in Vanuatu. It already benefits from a proactive and visionary approach on the part of Vanuatu's government, which has decided to put a strategy in place. In the public sector, agritourism linkages need to be prioritised. Government incentives should create a conducive environment for businesses to operate in. Equally important is support for farmers' organisations to enable them to meet consumer and public demand. More data are needed on crop production, yield and service providers, as well as the nutritional and health characteristics of local fresh food and processed food.
Another promising avenue is collaboration with local chefs to use and showcase local foods in sophisticated ways, increase local sourcing and promote the country's image as a top food destination. The traditional cuisine of Vanuatu incorporates fish, root vegetables such as taro and yams, fruits, and vegetables. Papayas, pineapples, mangoes, plantains and sweet potatoes are abundant through much of the year. Coconut milk and cream are used to flavour many dishes.
Vanuatu has a comparative advantage with some of its products already known for their quality, such as beef, cocoa, honey and coffee. More effort could be put into promoting quality food products through branding and marketing to promote the identity of Vanuatu.
The way forward
Bringing agriculture, trade, health and tourism closer together will stimulate Vanuatu's agricultural sector, strengthen local producers' organisations and increase sustainable economic growth and employment. The various value chain actors, including farmers and food processors, will also benefit as demand for local, high-quality and healthy agricultural products increases. Tourists will be engaged and the local economy will boom.
• Support the ongoing work of the Agritourism Steering Committee that has been established to increase the supply of local primary products to the domestic market
• Implement and raise awareness on the recent directive to use local products in catering for government functions
• National Agritourism Strategy to be developed with support from the New Zealand Aid Programme
• Support farmers' organisations to strengthen the supply side and develop collective marketing to overcome issues of volume, consistency and quality of produce.
• Publicise Vanuatu's achievements amongst a wider community of Small Island Developing States
• Take advantage of regional events to share Vanuatu's experience in agritourism
• Improve communication and trade between potential suppliers and buyers such as farmers, foresters, fishermen, livestock producers and businesses
• Survey the local content of foods consumed in major restaurants and hotels to map the supply and distribution system
• Develop training programmes for food services, preparation, handling and menu development, including capacity building for food safety trainers and inspector.
1. Coordination, strategic alliances and partnerships are needed to move agritourism policy development forward. The Ministries of Agriculture, Tourism, Transportation, Health, Environment, Education and Trade will work with each other and the private sector to establish a policy environment that will encourage investment. Strategic alliances with development partners will assist in this process. The national Agritourism Steering Committee will be supported to continue their work plan to increase supply of local products, and increase collaboration with other actors in the sector.
2. Agritourism policy should promote inclusive growth and private sector development. Any agritourism strategy will need to build up the economic linkages between the local economy and private sector operators. As a first step, some commercial or PPP business models could be tested. Analysing possible contractual agreements between producer groups and hotels would stimulate local production. The skills of local producers and processors will need to be developed in the agro-processing industry, with the involvement of development agencies. Particular efforts should be made to involve women and youth entrepreneurs in these initiatives. CTA can assist in providing innovative services to farmers, such as sharing experiences from other regions and supporting pilot projects on text messaging of market data and crop information.
3. Promote the role of chefs as value chain actors. Market surveys will be conducted in selected resorts and hotels to identify the use of local food in Vanuatu-branded cuisine and highlight success stories. A web page related to the Vanuatu agritourism agenda will be featured in the Chefs for Development platform.
'Policy setting for improved linkages between agriculture, trade and tourism: Strengthening the local agrifood sector and promoting healthy food in agritourism' was a workshop was organised by the Government of Vanuatu and CTA in collaboration with the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA). It was held in Port Vila, Vanuatu on 25–27 May 2016.
The meeting followed on from the first Pacific Agribusiness Forum held in July 2015 in Denarau, Fiji, as part of the Pacific Community Agritourism Week. That meeting highlighted successes in strengthening links between agriculture and tourism industries in the Pacific region and recommended pilot projects to set up agritourism policies.