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How an ICT knowledge platform can support agribusiness in the Caribbean region

In the Caribbean region, tourism is an essential element of the economy, and one of the sectors with the biggest growth in the recent years. For instance, in 2014, the region received 26.3 million tourists who spent US$29.2 billion, setting a new record for the region (Dawkins, 2015). However, to sustain this growth, the tourism sector must develop strategies to adapt to the new demands from the visitors and diversify its products from the traditional sea-sand-sun and cruise options.

Many countries in the region have been exploring, since long time, potential linkages between the agri-food sector and the tourism sector.

The aim of this study is to explore the potential of how an ICT knowledge platform could support the development of the tourism-agribusiness linkages development.

Among the key findings of the research, it appears clearly that agritourism linkage is an important topic in the region, and lots of actors at the national and regional level are working towards developing the sector. Activities are currently occurring in many different areas from policy development to research to tourism. On the production side, lots of efforts are also put in place at the national level to develop information for farmers and agribusinesses. Many islands have now put in place an online market information system.

However, the organisation of agribusinesses and agribusiness information seems weak. There is not yet a global view about the various actors in the region, the production nodes and the information about the production of various commodities in different places. In the same way, there isn’t a central place for businesses to find information (farmer organisations, production nodes, businesses information) that might help them make informed decisions on investment, or identify new suppliers or new customers.

A second challenge is related to certifications. There is a global agreement among the various actors on the importance for farmers and agribusinesses to get certifications to ease market access. There is clearly a niche market for organic food, who is an important element of tourist demand, and therefore and an important requirement for the agritourism sector. Other certifications (global gap, ISO, food safety, etc.) are also essential for export and trade. At the moment, there seem to be an information gap about who are certified producers are, where they live and what they produce. The same gap seems to exist at the farmers’ level. They are not aware of key certifications that will ease market access, and how to get technical and financial assistance to develop capacities and get certifications.

In both areas, an online ICT platform has a major role to provide services and information required by agribusinesses. This approach is supported by the specific ICT context in the region, where the penetration rate of internet (35%) and mobile (110%) is far higher than in most of developing nations. Moreover, many actors have massively invested in specific ICT tools from web sites to smartphone apps to SMS application.

The report is structured in five sections. In the first one, we present the methodology used in the study. The second section presents the findings of the various investigations, the third section presents a series of recommendations for the platform and the fourth section presents a possible action plan for the implementation. Finally, the last section presents the larger context of the agritourism sector and a possible integrated approach with other activities to develop a series of new tourism products.

This study was conducted from April to November 2015 for The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) whose mission is to advance food and nutritional security, increase prosperity and encourage sound natural resource management in ACP countries.