Developing Food Value Chains to meet Tourism Demand in the Caribbean: Case Studies of St. Kitts Nevis and St. Lucia

Tourism plays a vital role in the Caribbean region and it is one of the fastest growing industries globally. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council Report (2014), tourism's contribution to regional GDP of Caribbean is estimated at 14.2% in 2014 and it accounts for 11.4% of regional employment. As the two most common pillars of the region’s economy, sugar and bananas industries, have declined, tourism has increasingly become a major source of income for many of the Caribbean countries. For some countries tourism accounts for more than half of their GDP for example in the Bahamas and Antigua and Barbuda. With an increasing number of tourist arrivals and cruise ship visits per year, tourism continues to be an important opportunity for further promoting economic development in the Caribbean. Caribbean small island developing states (SIDS) are very vulnerable open economies. This paper investigates how the tourism industry can contribute in a much greater manner to regional development through the development of competitive food value chains for all aspects of tourism food demand. The tourism industry mainly relies on food imports as opposed to accessing the local market. Despite numerous efforts over many years there has been little success in sustainably supplying tourism demand from domestic production and value-chains. This paper evaluates tourism, food and agricultural linkages and presents an approach to increase these linkages for greater economic and social impact. The main challenges for Caribbean farmers in meeting supply requirements have been related to their inability to compete (Beckford and Campbell, 2013; FAO, 2011, 2012; IICA, 2014). This inability results not only from low productivity but has also been related to quality and reliability of supply. The weak public policy and governmental support framework as well as private sector structural weaknesses have also contributed to the lack of inclusion of Caribbean farmers in tourism food markets. Based on a survey of tourism sector agricultural product buyers, the analysis of main food trade actors and requirements of the tourism industry carried out for two case studies countries – St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Lucia. With this information and the experience of domestic producers, production and marketing processes, local commodities with the greatest potential for the tourism food market are identified. The lessons from case studies analysis lead to the design of new approaches to the development of food value chains for the tourism sector. Results of this analysis can be applied to other Caribbean countries that have similar agricultural characteristics and depend on the tourism industry. Main findings demonstrate that if Caribbean producers are able to develop competitive food value chains, a cost saving alternative food supply will be available to the tourism sector and this specific segment of the Caribbean agricultural sector can be sustainable.

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Farm and Business - The Journal of the Caribbean Agro-Economic Society, Volume 08, Number 1
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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2018-01-23

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