The government is serious about promoting the sustainable use of local food by the tourism industry through strengthened inter-sectoral policies.
That was the message from the Minister of Tourism, Sala Fata Pinati, when he opened the AgriTourism Policy Setting Workshop being held at the T.A.T.T.E Building this week.
The Minister said the key to economic development is the promotion of agri-business and agri-tourism development, led by the private sector with enabling support of the public sector.
“This has to be done in a way that guarantees sustainability and preservation, of a unique and rich eco-system, promotes our cultures and traditions, and generates economic and social benefits, for the various parties in the chain, particularly, the small-scale farmers and rural communities, who, are often the most vulnerable,” he said.
“Samoa agri-cultural production, is very much organic, and produced in traditional ways, which respects the environment, and brings income, and livelihoods to rural communities.
“This provides a point of difference, for hotel/restaurant-cuisine, thus encouraging demand, for local agri-cultural produce thereby increasing their values.”
The Minister added that agri-cultural systems in Samoa enhanced through tourism experience are an integral part of the local landscape and is central to the “island” way of life.
Sala said identifying new opportunities, in a changing, and competitive context, and exploring new products for local and regional markets, as well as, the tourism segment are all vital areas.
“Like many of the other Pacific islands, we believe Samoa has opportunities, in linking agriculture to tourism sectors, as well to health and trade; resulting in turn to a development of multi-sectorial approaches,” he said.
“We have a Tourism Sector Plan 2014-2019, which recognise that the tourism industry is one of the major engines, of economic growth for our country.”
Furthermore, the strategy for Development of Samoa 2016-2020, recognizes that “the agriculture sector, including fisheries, remains forefront, of economic growth and is key to ensuring food security, income generation, and enhanced export capacity,” Sala said.
The Agricultural Sector Plan for 2016-2020 is also guided by the theme “enhancing partnerships, to develop and sustain agriculture and fisheries.”
According to Sala, those strong partnerships have to be strengthened within and between various Ministries and stakeholders, including, traditional and new development partners.
By branding Samoa an attractive destination, sustainable tourism has greater potential for future growth. Great benefits are envisaged, and have already been realised which support employment, provides foreign exchange, and builds the economy.
Sala said new avenues such as a national agri-tourism park, culinary and food festival experiences, which have enhanced wellness and provided retreat experiences, are a few of these great benefits.
“However, more needs to be done, in linking tourism growth, to the agriculture and agri-business sectors, to promote local sourcing; support our industries in existing and new market segments, and develop new products,” he said.
“We have good experiences in Samoa already, which can be upscale and expanded with additional investment. From the policy side, we certainly are favorable to strengthening those linkages.
“Moreover, we need to support our private sector particularly small to medium enterprises to access new markets, acquire new knowledge and technology, and become more competitive, especially in value-added goods.”
Standards, quality assurance, certification processes, according to Sala, are all extremely critical areas.
“Samoa has good but relatively undeveloped potential, for nature and soft-adventure tourism, along with more village-based activities and tours, linked to local and organic produce, such as coffee, tropical fruit, fragrances and oils, including arts and handicrafts,” he said.
“Cuisine also plays a major role in promoting, a country’s national identity and culture. Therefore, further initiatives in areas such as culinary events, and creative use of local products in recipes, and menus need to be strengthened.”
The workshop is attended by policy makers, government officials, private sector delegates, chefs and actors from the hospitality sector, civil society, academia and international and regional partners.
It is organised by the government of Samoa and Brussels-based Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (C.T.A) in collaboration with Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation.