Regional experts cite exports, training and hotel supply as key areas for development
KINGSTOWN, ST. VINCENT & THE GRENADINES — The intersection of hospitality, namely hotel businesses, and agriculture was identified as an opportunity for economic development and job growth by regional experts on a recent World Bank panel.
Addressing the topic of “generating jobs and creating a way forward for our youth in the future and in terms of resilience”, Youth Activist and Lecturer Aria Laidlow started by acknowledging the need to transform the major industries of tourism and agriculture.
Laidlow asserted, “Looking at ways in which we can create jobs within those avenues as well is very important because, I must say, if we’re looking, if we’re serious about resilience and if we’re talking about climate change, we cannot welcome continued development along our coastlines…
“We cannot continue to praise large commercial hotel chains which are solely focused on importing goods and services and not really purchasing from our small local farmers and local businesses.”
It was a point reiterated by World Bank Country Director for the Caribbean Lilia Burunciuc, who said, “I think there is a huge potential for developing the local agriculture industry and making sure that agriculture products are supplied to the hotels and exported, because I think there is huge export potential.
“One thing that we need to keep in mind is that providing for this to the hotels is more or less the same as exporting. It’s the same set of standards…, so if you get ready for providing for the year-round same quality, meeting all the food safety standards to the hotels, then it means you may be actually ready to export…to the world markets as well.”
Regional cooperation for agriculture industry development
Burunciuc also underscored regional cooperation as crucial in the effort to develop the agriculture industry, as she noted that not all Caribbean islands have the same potential for agriculture products.
In this vein, Joseph Cox, assistant secretary-general of Trade and Economic Integration of CARICOM, said the heads of government approved a “COVID-19 Agri-Food Plan” and “attendant strategy”, with private sector partners reportedly already set to contribute “substantial” investments.
“We have also had a facility established by agreement of our Council for Trade and Economic Development, a cross-border facility or a cross-border training to allow for agriculture extension officers,” Cox said.
“So, in other words, we’re creating infrastructure that allows for cross-border training and real knowledge-building across the sector.”