One of the focus of the first-ever Pacific Community AgriTourism Week is “sustainable growth, decent jobs and businesses”. Chefs attending the event have taken this opportunity to go down local in visiting farms in Fiji.
“A smart guy is one who does farming, identifies loopholes in the market and tries his best to figure how to bridge the gaps”, says celebrity chef Colin Chung during the chefs’ field trip visits.
In the Pacific countries, our industry is growing and it would be great if farmers could become more proactive in providing extended services.
Thinking out of the box
A great example, “Farm Boy” from Fiji has over 800 suppliers and is an active farmer who found himself in real Agri-Tourism business world. Hotels and other customers come looking for him. The farm has different kinds of vegetables for domestic supply, and recently in the list of exporting to New Zealand.
In its initial beginning, it was the Farm Boy team that took up this initiative of identifying loopholes within the market and came up with ideas of how they can fix it in a better way.
Focus on what the customer wants
Nowadays, life gets easier for customers when you get to the market and find out that what you are looking for is packed and ready for you. The farmers make it easier for you. They grow it, harvest it, clean it, have them packed and sell.
Even in shops, you will realise that goods have been packed and ready for sale. This is what farmers are mostly encouraged to do so that instead of looking for them, they come to us.
What are the issues?
In the Pacific context, big hotels generally do not have time to produce food. They rely totally on the farmers for food production, but the latter are sometimes not proactive enough and what is missing is that they are not looking at farming in a business perspective. It is also true that some farmers own small pieces of land and need to upscale their farming activities and shift from subsistence farming to agribusiness and hence the possibility of engaging in agri-tourism.
In the Pacific, the lack of regional trade and services is also an issue. It is not easy to do business with neighbouring countries and islands.
How to overcome the challenges?
The first thing for farmers to think of is to take agriculture as a business. They should look around and observe what is the situation along the value chain – where do they find gaps, and what innovation can they bring in to make a change? In the process, they might also consider the tourism industry and its demand and requirements as a business opportunity.
Last, but not the least, it is not only the responsibility of the farmers to make this change happen. Other actors along the agriculture value chain and the tourism sector should contribute to these efforts, and the governments on their side have to strengthen National strategies and plans for agri-tourism
Everyone has an important role to play. Farmers are the very backbones of our economic and social development and they should not be ignored.
Blogpost by Deffnie Thompson, Social Reporter for the Pacific Community AgriTourism Week 2015.