Agriculture Minister Not Happy with Marriott Hotel’s Refusal to Buy Local Products

However, as new investments and new methods are being attempted, a senior government official has been expressing concerns that not enough is being done by some major players in the hotel sub sector of tourism, to support local farmers and are not purchasing their produce in the quantities desired. 

Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Timothy Harris, has made known his disappointment over the fact that local farming products are not getting the purchasing support that is required from the Marriott. He said at a special ceremony on Tuesday, 31st January, 2012, that he was reminded of the EC $1million insurance coverage that the local Farmers Cooperative had taken out to allow them access to the Marriott Hotel for their products.

Harris explained that “The project fell in abeyance for want of support on the Marriott’s end.  Our ‘Marriott’ experience stands in singular and distinct contrast to what other hotel chains in the Caribbean have been doing to promote the linkage between agriculture and tourism.  We know how positive and beneficial is the relationship between Super Club Resort chain in Jamaica and the agricultural sector there.  We know of similar good examples of support involving Sandals in Jamaica and Sandals in St Lucia.  Closer home the Four Seasons Resort as a flag ship hotel, not only in Nevis, but also in St Kitts and Nevis, has developed a strong partnership with the Farmers Cooperative there.  We wish Marriott would follow these good examples.”

Dr. Harris has however indicated that his Ministry’s new effort with the support of the Taiwanese is positioned to correct many of the shortcomings of previous farming activities.

“I am happy for this new effort in agro tourism.  In the end we will learn why some agro projects succeed and why some fail. We must know what are the success factors?  Do they include farm size (this one is twenty acres of land- most farmers have less than three acres)?  Is it the presence of water? Here we are to have a 15,000 gallon reservoir.  Most of our farms do not yet have water systems.  Is it an adequate budget?  The budget for this project is estimated at EC $8m.”

The Minister of Agriculture was on Tuesday addressing officials at a ground breaking ceremony for the Agro Tourism Facility, located at Fahies, on the outskirts of Sandy Point. The facility is receiving financial and technical support from Taiwan. 

At the ceremony, Dr. Harris said, “Today we move our cooperation to another level – agro tourism.  By investing in an agricultural field station, a modern green house, a tea house and offering an opportunity for our tourists to receive tours of the farm and experience the rustic reality of farm life.  Positioned at the turn-around point of the Scenic Railway, this facility will offer an opportunity for visitors to really enjoy an agro-tourism experience through guided farm tours and a pick and pay system.” 

He said, “This new site, I am advised, will offer much more than a demonstration farm for vegetables and fruits.  I am advised that it will bring together a number of areas that are critical to the development of the agricultural sector and other sectors. The agro-tourism approach has long been talked of but a real demonstration like this one will prove that it can work and can be an enterprise contributing to the livelihood and income generation of many of our citizens and residents.  None of this diminishes the efforts of the former Minister of Tourism to establish an agro tourism farm along the Kim Collins Highway.”

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