Tourism-led agribusiness in the South Pacific countries

The concept of tourism-led agribusiness is attracting high interest from regional and international organisations because it has the potential to provide a series of benefits to many different actors.

Benefits of of tourism-led agribusiness include:

  • Increased market opportunities for locally produced commodities and for smallholder farmers. Hotels and restaurants have a sustained demand all over the year for a wide variety of commodities (raw and transformed products).
  • Easier access to fresh, locally grown products for local hotels, restaurants and chefs.
  • Increased benefit of tourism on local economies by decreasing the import bill for foreign commodities
  • Increased tourist expenditures on farm/food activities
  • Increased visibility and promotion of South Pacific traditional culture, particularly in its culinary dimension

For the realisation of these benefits, an efficient ecosystem between all the stakeholders has to be initiated, and synergies between different sectors of the economy have to be developed. In a simplistic view, actors can be split in two categories: demand side and supply side, with very different objectives and requirements. Each category, their key constituencies and their main challenges are detailed below.

Demand-side actors

There are different types of actors to consider on the demand side:

  • Hotels and restaurants: Their main challenges and requirements are related to minimise the risk of their supply chains. They want to manage the smallest possible number of providers that can offer stability in volumes, quality and variety of commodities. It is important to note the importance of these criteria depends largely on the size of the enterprise. For instance, big international chains (Hilton, Mariott, Sofitel etc.) have huge demand in terms of quantity, and don’t have full flexibility in the choice of their providers, making them poor targets for tourism-led agribusiness focus.
  • Chefs: in most hotels and in restaurant, chefs are responsible for designing menus. In most countries, the turnover is relatively high, and chefs are coming from all over the world. Their biggest challenges is around:
  • The knowledge of locally produced commodities and how to innovate with them, instead of requiring commodities that are not available locally, and not available all year long
  • The knowledge of local traditional dishes and how to prepare theTourism sector in general: It is important to note that the tourism sector in general focuses marketing on accommodation and activities, but rarely on food. An example that illustrates this is e.g. the Fiji Tourism Web site1. Key performance indicators of the sector are on number of tourist arrival, average length of stay, tourist expenditure and induced employment. They are rarely on the impact on other sectors, particularly agriculture. While there is a growing interest from tourists for so called ‘ecotourism,’ ‘fair tourism’ and related concepts that are strongly linked with tourism-led agribusiness, this has not come yet as a key marketing element in most touristic destinations in the world.

Supply-side actors

The supply side is mostly farmers, but also higher level organisations (farm organisations) and agribusinesses (e.g. processors, transformers, producers of value-added products such as chocolate maker or candy maker and traders.

  • Smallholder Farmers: Farmers’ main challenge is to produce stable and sustained quantity and quality of products. Most farmers are producing a very small number of commodities, small volume that can highly fluctuate depending on pest control, weather, etc., and usually unpredictable quality. Moreover, they are usually not able to adapt to specific purchasing conditions of hotels (transport, credit, packaging etc.). Individual farmers are therefore usually not the right target for the demand-side actors.
  • Farmer Organisations: Farmer organisations are able to support farmers and serve as helpful intermediaries with farmers. One key challenge for them resides on their ability to coordinate and communicate with farmers on real-time in order to fulfil requests. Another issue is their ability to interact and negotiate with hotels and restaurants with is often not in their mandate.
  • Agribusinesses and traders: Agribusinesses and traders are the actors that are likely to be the closest to the demand-side actors, being able to provide not only raw commodities but also processed products. They are also able to mix various sources of supply to meet demand in terms of volumes and quality. Major challenges with those actors are on their ability to link with farmers and farmers organisations and organise a sustainable supply, and on the cost of their services to ensure that all parties (farmers and demand-side actors) have fair prices.

As a general observation, it is important to note that tourism sector and the agriculture sector are not used to be sectors working together. Ministries and public agencies are not usually working together, making more difficult the development of policies cross-cutting the two sectors and that could leverage tourism-led agribusiness. In the same way, private sector organisations are not well connected or even aware of farmer organisations and the service they can provide etc. The fact that the two sectors are not traditionally working together is a major gap to bridge to develop tourism-led agribusiness.

This study is building on:

Desk research. Identify and review of studies on the tourism sector in South Pacific, on the agriculture sector, on tourism-led agribusiness and related domains.

Field interviews. During the week of 11 May 2015 a series of key people from the various stakeholder groups identified in the first phase, were interviewed face to face mostly but also over phone calls. All interviews took place in Fiji (Viti Levu), mainly to the fact that many regional organisations such as the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO), the Pacific Island Farmers Organisation Network (PIFON) or the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO) have their headquarter in Fiji.