PRESS RELEASE:-The SLHTA’s Virtual Agricultural Clearing House (VACH) was recently honored as a finalist in the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association’s 2017 CHIEF Awards. The CHTA’s Caribbean Hospitality Industry Exchange Forum Awards highlights Caribbean businesses that through their best practices improves the wellbeing of the industry and the region. The initiative (VACH), established in April 2016, received 2nd place in the Social Responsibility category.
The Virtual Agricultural Clearing House (VACH) operates on a simple Whatsapp platform via which hotels, restaurants and food and beverage distributors obtain information on the availability of crops, thereby facilitating an increase in the sale of local produce and encouraging import substitution. In its first year of operations, over 400 farmers have enrolled in the program resulting in over $800,000 dollars worth of produce traded in the first year alone.
Chief Executive Officer in speaking on the impact of the VACH remarked that, “As we continue to increase purchase of local agricultural produce by the hospitality sector, we could generate significant reduction in the importation bill over the long term. This is tourism dollars directly in the pockets of our farmers creating a ripple of positive effects for the economy of Saint Lucia. The recognition of our program at the CHIEF Awards is an indication that we are going in the right direction”.
Through the efforts of hoteliers, restaurants and food and beverage companies, strengthened by the work of the VACH, it is estimated that a greater percentage of cantaloupes, honeydew, watermelons, tomatoes and pineapples used on property, were purchased locally. The program continues to grow from strength to strength and recently successfully received three greenhouses sponsored by the Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan). Through this, and the continued engagement of private and public sector partners, it is hoped that these strengthened linkages will continue to give support to the agricultural sector.