Agritourism link

THERE are great potentials and opportunities for agricultural producers to supply the tourism sector, but identified gaps need to be resolved so that linkages are strengthened.

And to service the tourist market, farmers or local producers need to find competitive and profitable ways to meet tourism industry demand for volume, quality, regularity and safety requirements.

This provides the platform for non-sugar sector farmers such as crop and livestock farmers to harness the growing market opportunities from the tourism sector — the country’s major GPD contributor.

Through agritourism, which involves both lucrative sectors of the Fijian economy, the agriculture and tourism sector, farmers and producers in the crop and livestock sector could gain profits or sustained means of income.

The topic of agritourism was extensively discussed at the Fiji Agritourism Policy Setting workshop at the Novotel Suva Lami Bay yesterday, which saw more than 50 representatives from the agriculture, trade and tourism sectors.

Speaking as a panellist during the workshop, Fiji Crop and Livestock Council chief executive officer Jiu Daunivalu, who leads the apex council body that works with more than 20,000 crop and livestock farmers in the non-sugar sector, set the discussions around policy setting for improved linkages between agriculture, trade and tourism.

She particularly recommended that gaps identified are resolved at government level regarding agriculture and tourism are addressed with right policies and regulations formulated through research and feasibility studies.

“We cannot move ahead unless the framework or platform is set,” she said.

According to Ms Daunivalu, the council has also been working towards shifting farmers and livestock farmers from subsistence (for consumption and livelihood) towards semi-subsistence to semi-commercial and being fully commercial.

“There are factors that limit the ability to market produce to hotels,” she said.

“These include inability to provide a wide range of products; inability to provide same-day delivery to hotel premises; inability to provide 30-day credit; and use of inappropriate packing materials.”

One of the major factors contributing to hoteliers preference to import was hoteliers preferred imported produce as local producers were unable to provide a consistent supply of high quality produce.

“Hoteliers import large amount of fruits and vegetables due to lack of consistent supply and quality from local producers,” she said.

“About $30 million is spent annually on importing food products for the tourism sector that could be grown in Fiji, although 47 per cent of hotel purchases were from local providers,” she said.

“This represents a large market opportunity available to local producers to provide to the specifications of the tourism sector.”

Ms Daunivalu said the ability of local agrifood systems to meet these requirements depended both on agriculture supply factors.

These requirements include natural resource base, farming systems in place, agro-processing and marketing capacity; and the kind of tourism development, which can be mass tourism, high-end niche, health and wellness including eco-tourism.

“The exposure of tourists to specific local products could also help export market penetration; when return home tourists help build a domestic demand,” she said.

“Examples for market penetration include red papaya in Fiji and beef from Vanuatu.”

But the burning question could be, why are hoteliers and tourism providers still importing although the efforts have been geared towards import substitution through promoting locally made/grown foods.

This is because imported food products simply have higher quality – highest grade, in packages far better suited in terms of capacity and type, compared with those employed locally; appropriate storage and transport facilities; consistency in supply, and ability to meet unexpected client demand and deliver directly to the premises.

So, what is needed in the domestic industry to attract the custom of mid-range and high-end establishments?

Ms Daunivalu said this called for more investment towards more efficient practice, better storage facilities, and better transportation facilities.

“There are strategies /action plan for farmers capacity needs accessing tourism markets,” she said.

This, she said, included business and finance training, pricing, budgeting and general training on economics of supply and demand (domestic markets/tourism markets / export markets).

“Also, marketing based on quality standards and selling by weight, profit estimation using a value-chain approach including awareness of agri-finance products are important.”

Food safety training for on-farm and post-harvest handling and packaging and transportation (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points — HACCP) is also equally important.

This would include training on food packaging treatment processes to increase market access (e.g. heat treatment for fruit fly).

Ms Daunivalu also believes targeted investment in production, that is equipment, mechanisation processes, irrigation, on-farm technology and packaging and cold storage that improves reliability and quality of supply to tourism operators.

Other areas for improvement, Ms Daunivalu said, included market information systems and ICT, planning, extension and training analysing current gaps in extension services and explore more cost effective extension models to deliver targeted technical assistance/training to industry groups/clusters/lead farmers to enhance production.

PIPSO acting chief executive officer Alisi Tuqa said: “The policy and regulatory framework in Fiji and also around the Pacific are quite archaic and these need to be brought up so businesses can be conducted in a cohesive manner.

“Cluster development is something we also promote quite strongly because that’s a way for businesses to work together particularly in agritourism. Gone are the days where businesses work by themselves or are isolated.”

The Fiji Agritourism Policy Setting Workshop is a partnership between Government, Pacific Community (SPC), Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO) and South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO).

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