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JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Jamaica’s first major supply of internationally certified organic bamboo charcoal, totalling 9,600 pounds, is scheduled to be shipped to the United States (US) on Tuesday, April 14.
  • The charcoal, valued at approximately $551,904 (US$4, 800), will be transported from Kingston to Houston, Texas.
  • The supply of bamboo charcoal has been provided through a partnership involving three entities, two local, and the other, American.

Jamaica’s first major supply of internationally certified organic bamboo charcoal, totalling 9,600 pounds, is scheduled to be shipped to the United States (US) on Tuesday, April 14.

The charcoal, valued at approximately $551,904 (US$4, 800), will be transported from Kingston to Houston, Texas aboard a vessel, scheduled to dock in Jamaica on Monday, April 13, and is expected to arrive at its destination within nine days of departing the island.

The supply of bamboo charcoal, which has been certified for export to the US under the US Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Programme (USDA/NOP), has been provided through a partnership involving three entities, two local, and the other, American.

These are: the supplier, Nelson’s Super Farm in St. Mary, which operates the first organic bamboo charcoal factory to be established in Jamaica; Kingston-based packager and exporter, Janitorial Traders Limited (JTL); and US distributor, Jamaican Jeems Company Limited.

The overall engagement forms part of the Ministry of Industry, Investment, and Commerce’s Bamboo Products Industry Project, being administered by the Bamboo and Indigenous Materials Advisory Committee (BIMAC) at the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ). The BIMAC is chaired by Gladstone Rose, who is also the BSJ’s Senior Director for Technical Services.

The project is consistent with the Government’s Job Creation and Economic Growth strategic priority, focusing on the development and growth of key productive sectors; development of micro, small, and medium sized enterprises; and facilitating protection of the natural environment.

Global trade for bamboo is estimated to value approximately US$10 billion.

Managing Director of JTL, Roger Chang, tells JIS News that the charcoal has been packaged in 1,600 six-pound bags bearing the ‘Jamaican Jeems Products’ label, and the USDA organic certification mark.

The bags were stacked into 160 boxes and loaded into a 20-foot container, at JTL’s facility located on Stanton Terrace, on Friday, April 10, with the proceedings observed by Mr. Rose.

The container was transported to the Kingston port the same day, where it is being held until the vessel’s arrival for shipment along with other cargo, to the United States.

Early indications suggest that the charcoal, which is currently produced solely for export, is slated for distribution to the Sprouts Farmers Market chain of stores, which operates over 150 outlets across the USA, with headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona.

Mr. Chang says focus is now being placed on boosting production at the charcoal plant in St. Mary, adding that “we are looking at (preparing another shipment) within another month.”

There are five local entities currently producing charcoal from bamboo, including Nelson’s Super Farm.

Mr. Chang notes, however, that only Nelson’s has, to date, been accorded the USDA/NOP certification, to produce organic charcoal for export to the US.

“That does not stop anybody else from producing (charcoal, and) putting it in their own bags, (labelling it), and selling it anywhere else,” he points out.

BIMAC indicates that apart from the 1,600 bags, approximately 40 bags were previously shipped to the Cayman Islands for “marketing purposes”, and also to Canada by other Bamboo Products Industry Project members.

BIMAC points out that Haiti is being targeted, while enquiries have come from a potential buyer in Trinidad and Tobago.

A total of 19 million pounds of charcoal are being targeted for production and export over the next two years, under the bamboo project. Data from BIMAC’s registry of suppliers indicates that upwards of 3,000 acres are currently available for charcoal export production.

Regarding the domestic market, BIMAC indicates that while there have been “expressions of interest” from a “handful” of supermarkets and jerk centres, “the local market is still being developed.”

BIMAC adds that “there are other members of the Bamboo Products Industry Project (who) are getting themselves ready to penetrate the local market.”

Local bamboo charcoal production commenced in 2012, and retailing thereafter, coinciding with Jamaica securing membership to the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR).

BIMAC commenced training of bamboo stakeholders in 2012, with a view to creating a diversified and sustainable bamboo products industry.