Posted: Thursday, July 2, 2015 12:00 am
Vanuatu Daily Post, Thompson Marango, Nadi Fiji 

“More local content on plates and more local agrifood products on offer for visitors, tourists and the hotel industry means more income and employment opportunities for our farmers, suppliers, private sector and overall interest in the agricultural sector,” the Deputy Director of SPC’s Land Resources Division, Ken Cokanasiga, told participants of the first ever Pacific Community Agritourism Week in Nadi thi week.

Mr Cokanasiga’s statement emphasized how connecting Agriculture to Tourism can improve economic opportunities in countries like Vanuatu who already have strong existing tourism and agriculture sectors.

“In many cases, the problems can be resolved through better communication between buyers and sellers in the agriculture and tourism sectors. The promotion of local food is also linked to showcasing healthy food choices and increasing regional trade,” Mr Cokanasiga said.

Cokanasiga’s statement echos that of the keynote speaker, Head of Operations for the Delegation of the European Union for the Pacific, Renato Mele, said at the event opening.

“Promoting the links between agriculture and tourism can contribute to improve economic opportunities, build resilience in rural communities and enhance sustainable development”, the Head of Operations for the Delegation of the European Union for the Pacific, Renato Mele, said at the event opening.

“To create jobs, you need businesses who lead innovation and change. Agriculture and tourism seem to offer the best opportunity for inclusive economic growth in the region,” Mr Mele added.

He also highlighted the commitment of the European Union to the development of the private sector, widely recognized as the engine of growth by generating jobs, contributing to public revenue and providing goods and services.

“Two European Union regional projects are already ongoing in the sectors of agriculture and tourism. These are implemented in partnership with SPC and SPTO respectively,” he emphasized.

Tourism in the Pacific Island countries grew about 3.5 per cent per year between 2008 and 2012. The total value of Pacific tourism is forecast to nearly double to US$4 billion by 2019.

However, the economic benefits also come with costs. Up to 80 per cent of the food in the tourism industry is imported, partly because the hotels and airlines need reliable supplies of good quality products.

Today July 1 will mark the 3rd day of the Pacific Community Agritourism Week and Vanuatu’s Ambassador to the European Union, Roy Micky Joy will be a key speaker in one of the main events.