KINGSTON, Jamaica – The Minister of Tourism of Jamaica, Hon. Edmund Bartlett announced that between January and October this year, farmers sold produce for just under J$125 million through the online tourism platform Agri-Linkages Exchange (ALEX).
The Minister made the announcement yesterday (November 23) during the launch of the Food Safety Handbook for Agricultural Suppliers at Devon House, Kingston.
Agricultural Link Exchange Project
“The Agri-Linkages Exchange project continues to benefit the 1,200 farmers and 247 buyers who are registered on the platform, and the ALEX hub continues to engage both farmers and hotels online, facilitated by a team of six agribrokers,” Minister Bartlett said.
“I am happy to report that between January and October this year, just under J$125 million worth of produce was sold through the website,” he added.
ALEX is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Tourism, through the Tourism Promotion Fund and the Agricultural Development Authority (RADA). This is the first online platform of its kind in the country. It puts hoteliers in direct contact with farmers and in turn reduces leakages. Best of all, it helps Jamaica retain more of the economic benefits of tourism.
The platform you can find on www.agrilinkages.gov.jm, allows farmers to plan adequately to deal with crop seasonality and provide information related to the geographic location of specific crops. Registration is also made easy on the portal.
A berry growing program
The minister also shared that TEF promotes strawberry cultivation through its strawberry cultivation program. He noted that 15 farmers are currently producing strawberries through funding from the Tourism Promotion Fund (TEF). In addition, eight of them are currently providing continuous supplies to the tourism sector.
These farmers sell between 30 and 40 percent of the strawberries they produce directly to the tourism and hospitality industry. Unlike in the past when all the strawberries offered in our hotels and restaurants had to be imported, this means a source of income for the growers and a saving of foreign exchange for the nation.
“Just to give you an idea of the revenue streams open to strawberry growers, on average, single house strawberry farmers are currently selling strawberries at $800 per lb to locals and $1,200 per lb to retailers, and they sell 30 lbs. . berries per week and earn additional income by selling over 200 strawberry pops per month at $100 per pop,” said Bartlett.
The minister also noted that “farmers with three or more strawberry houses” are reporting that they are currently selling strawberries at $1,000 per pound at the farm door to hotels, suppliers and supermarkets. They harvest an average of 1,600 pounds per month, bringing in $1,600,000 in revenue. Their annual revenue is $11,200,000 for the next 6-7 months, with approximately $2,794,000 going into operating expenses.
Food Safety Handbook for Agricultural Suppliers
The Agricultural Supplier Food Safety Handbook, launched by TEF, sets out procedures that adhere to international standards. It was developed in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Jamaica Bureau of Standards, the Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA), tourism stakeholders and the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
With the input and full support of these organizations, the guide is expected to serve as an information resource for farmers, agro-processors and producers who supply the tourism sector.