A tourism sector ready to counter shortages by sourcing local products

Local tourism industry operators may struggle to access some food items in the coming weeks as supply chain challenges continue due to the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.

However, officials indicated that the substitution of certain items was one of the mitigation strategies to be employed to strengthen links with the agricultural sector and ensure consistency of supply, price and quality.

Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) President Renée Coppin confirmed at a press conference on Thursday that at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic some items were sold out for restaurants. due to global supply chain disruption.

She said that, based on anecdotal comments, she fears this may be the case again in the weeks and months to come as the Russian military’s invasion of Ukraine continues.

“It had a significant impact. I don’t think the Ukraine crisis has had as much of an impact yet as it will in the weeks and months to come, but from the time we had supply chain disruptions during COVID, we we had problems accessing things as basic as bacon, things as basic as wine, tonic water — inputs that we needed to keep eating and drinking,” Coppin said.

“I think it’s going to continue to get worse as we go forward, unfortunately. We’ve had discussions with some sort of ministry-led survey to try to figure out where the challenges were. I think it’s going to take maybe at some point replace some products. I think that might require us at some point to review some of the things we offer,” she said.

She said some restaurants have had to alter their menus as they engage in a “constant juggling act” due to the constant unavailability of certain items.

“At this point, we’ve had these disruptions since last year and the year before, due to COVID. So it’s been a constant juggling act for our members, especially in the food service industry and the restaurants within our grouping, to try to manage that,” Coppin said.

Given supply chain challenges, which have also led to dramatic price increases for some items, the government has been looking for ways to speed up the production of some items, including entering into special agreements with Guyana to produce en masse certain products, including the black belly. sheep.

Tourism officials said they were open to using more locally produced items to replace some imports, but said there was a lingering concern about the inconsistency of supply, quality and services. price.

“In the industry, we would be very happy if we could ensure consistency of supply, price and quality from local suppliers. . . I think the challenge has always been consistency of quality, price and supply,” insisted Coppin.

BHTA chief executive Rudy Grant said there had been a deepening of the links between the tourism sector and agriculture. However, he said there was still room for improvement.

He said at the height of the pandemic, when the island was hit by global supply chain disruptions, a number of farmers also found themselves in “big trouble”.

“Based on the interaction with our members, there’s this desire to be able to use more local produce, but we need to make sure there’s consistency in sourcing, consistency in quality and consistency in prices. We will continue to work with the Department of Agriculture and the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS),” Grant said.

He said the BHTA and BAS were expected to continue discussions next week, stressing that being able to source more from local farmers would help reduce the island’s food import bill and save foreign exchange.

“I think what we need to do in the short term is to strengthen the links and bring in these other sectors like agriculture. This is something the BHTA is committed to doing and we will continue to work with the relevant agricultural entities to make this a reality,” Grant pledged. (MM)

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Rozella J. Cook