Adopting a more business approach to agriculture is emerging as a profitable strategy for small-scale producers and agro-processors in many small island countries of the Caribbean, helping to increase revenues and jobs for rural communities.
The workshop showcased some of the most successful agribusiness ventures in the Caribbean, based on sustainable sourcing of local products and skills. The event set out to identify new markets, as well as the support services needed to strengthen relationships between value chain actors and the tourism industry, which offers valuable opportunities for supplying hospitality markets with food, beverages and local products. Tourism is the biggest wealth generator in the Caribbean, with 40 million people visiting the region each year.
Taking part in the event, which explored progress made since two Caribbean Agribusiness Fora held in Grenada in 2014 and Barbados in 2015, were private sector representatives, including farmers and agro-processors, financial institutions, professionals from the hospitality sector, development partners, civil society groups and policy-makers. Also present were participants from the Pacific region, underscoring the similar challenges facing the two regions in terms of remote locations of small islands states, high food import bills, and the strong potential offered by agribusiness in both cases.
"Agribusiness can create a great many opportunities, generating incomes and creating employment, especially for women and young people, in the Caribbean, but also in the Pacific," said Michael Hailu, Director of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), which is promoting agribusiness in the Caribbean region together with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the Caribbean Agribusiness Association (CABA) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
"We are looking at business models to see which ones are working, and how we can replicate them and scale them up. We are also looking to see how we can support smallholder producers and strengthen local small and medium enterprises, so that they can engage in growing tourist related markets," he added.
Success stories presented during the session included a Guyana-based community that is diversifying from coconut production into agro-processing, as well as other products, such as dasheen, yam, sweet potato, herbs and spices. In Trinidad and Tobago, an agribusiness enterprise is sourcing fruit and vegetables from local smallholders, and branching out into processing. Public-private partnerships have proved critical, for example in Barbados, where the state-owned Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation is working with private bakeries to substitute cassava for some of the wheat used in their products.
Value addition is an important part of the process, and some of the most successful agribusiness ventures have involved training and increasing efficiency among all stages in the value chain to increase sales and profits. Jamaica has successfully developed a pork value chain based on native breeds and is now exporting to regional markets.
"Across the Caribbean, new opportunities are being realised in the value addition of goods and services, as well as products for niche markets," said Dr. Víctor M. Villalobos, Director General of IICA. "The Caribbean region has one of the largest tourist sectors. This coupled with increasing demand for ethnic products in the USA and UK, offers increased opportunities within the agribusiness sector for export markets."
The Caribbean Week of Agriculture 2016 is being held from October 26 to 28 in the Cayman Islands. It is jointly organised by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), the Cayman Islands Government, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Intra-ACP Agricultural Policy Programme (Intra-ACP APP).
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