Jamaican farmers earn USD 39 million via Tourism Ministry’s ALEX
Local farmers of Jamaica has earned around USD 39 million from the Agri-Linkages Exchange (ALEX) pilot project of the Tourism Ministry. The project has assisted 400 local farmers with the marketing of approximately 360,000 kg of agricultural products.
ALEX, which is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Tourism and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), is the first online platform of its kind in the country. It brings hoteliers in direct contact with the farmers and could avoid unwanted middlemen and thus retain more of the economic benefits to the local people.
The platform, which can be found at www.agrilinkages.com, allows farmers to plan to adequately address seasonality in crops; and provide information as it relates to geographic location of specific crops.
Speaking at the opening of the Tourism Agri-Linkages Exchange (ALEX) Center, housed at RADA’s St Andrew office, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett said the project has enabled the farmers to market their products, irrespective of their location.
“We are excited about this initiative because it removes the issues of the communication gaps that exist. It puts us in a position to say that wherever the farmers are, they can produce and sell to the hotels because ALEX is there to connect you,” said Bartlett.
“It will remove the arguments from the hoteliers who say ‘I don’t know where your goods are or I don’t know who your farmers are.’ It invites a level of organization, so that even though ALEX will connect individual farmers, the logic of the arrangement will suggest that farmers can come together and create a critical mass that will enable a certitude of flows into the industry at all times,” added the minister.
Peter Thompson, CEO of RADA, stated that the number of participants and success stories are continuously growing, ever since the inception of ALEX.
“We had targeted 200 farmers in the pilot but we have achieved 400. The number of buyers and traders we have targeted was 80 but we are now at 100. We have networked with 55 hotels, 8 exporters, 7 restaurants, 20 agro-processors and 10 supermarkets. The numbers are still growing,” said Thompson.
Through this exchange center, farmers will have access to a physical space dedicated to calling or emailing the produce they have available to supply the tourism sector. The Center will then market this information to the hospitality sector and provide support to other key agricultural stakeholders.
The authorities envisages 20 per cent increase in the number of farmers having continuous trade relationship with the hotel and tourism sector, while strive to reduce the imports of fresh produces for the hotel and tourism industry by 15 per cent.