JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The bamboo industry has the potential to significantly boost the economy and generate employment.
  • In January 2012 Jamaica became the 38th member of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR).
  • The most successful countries of INBAR are India, China, Indonesia, Ecuador and Brazil.

The Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) is on a mission to resuscitate the bamboo industry in Jamaica, which has the potential to significantly boost the economy and generate employment.

Jamaica, in January 2012 became the 38th member of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) – an inter-governmental organization headquartered in China, comprising countries that have bamboo and/or rattan resources in quantities that can be commercialized.

Through its network of member countries, organizations and individuals from all continents of the world, INBAR develops and assist in the transfer of appropriate technologies and solutions to benefit the peoples of the world and their environment.

The BSJ has been designated by the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce (MIIC) to be the focal point for INBAR in Jamaica and has already received transfer of technology models, documents and publications that have assisted the organization to collaborate with private sector companies to produce prototypes of bamboo-made products, such as plywood, tiles, flooring, board, knives, spoons, student chairs and desks and other engineered products using the local variety of bamboo (bambusa vulgaris).

Team Leader for INBAR Focal Point Jamaica, Mr. Gladstone Rose, points out that Jamaica is poised to benefit from this lucrative industry. “The country has approximately 106,000 acres or 50,000 hectares of the valuable, renewable resource which grows rapidly and is a good substitute for wood which we obtain from cutting down trees that take 20 to 40 years to grow,” he tells JIS News.

“The economy stands to gain a lot from the membership of INBAR, as the countries that are in it all report that they are able to create jobs, protect their environment and get sustainable development because of bamboo,” the Team Leader adds.

Mr. Rose explains that the most successful countries of INBAR are India, China, Indonesia, Ecuador and Brazil, and with the knowledge, technology and standards to be obtained, Jamaica should be able to match those countries eventually.

“For China, it is a US$ multi-billion industry as it exports about US$10 billion worth of bamboo products and consumes about $2 billion worth per year,” Mr. Rose informs, adding that bamboo has contributed significantly to Brazil’s gross domestic product (GDP), and is a means of alleviating poverty in India.

Bamboo products on display by the Bureau of Standards (BSJ), which is spearheading the renewed thrust to revive the bamboo industry.

He points out that since the project’s inception, the Focal Point has collaborated with private stakeholders and the Glengoffe community to develop training modules and produce bamboo product prototypes from the local variety of bamboo.

The team is now seeking venture capital to supply already identified markets locally and in the United States.

“We were successful in making the bamboo plywood, then one of our members took that plywood and made furniture, such as student chairs and desks, which we showed to the Ministry of Education and this resulted in an order of 1,000,” Mr. Rose tells JIS News, noting that this is the start of the development of an entire value chain.

The pilot training programme using materials received from INBAR began in April 2012 in Glengoffe and will be delivered to community development committees over the next two years.

President of the Glengoffe Community Development Committee, Roosevelt Lawrence, says the community has been on board with the BSJ from the initial stage, with particular interest in the production of bamboo charcoal.

“We are in the process of developing some products for the local market and have started burning the coal. We also plan to reap the bamboo and distribute it to the manufacturers in Kingston and wherever else we can, because we have a lot of bamboo,” Mr. Lawrence notes.

“This project will create employment within the community as there are no factories or means of employment other than farming, so the community stands ready to benefit,” he tells JIS News.

Bamboo charcoal, one of the products developed as part of the bamboo resuscitation project by the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ).

Local Manufacturer and team member of INBAR Jamaica, Roger Chang, fully endorses the initiative and is integral in getting potential markets on board.

He says that he saw the potential of the bamboo charcoal, began packaging the product and sold it to several local supermarkets and jerk centres.

“It so happened that there was a visitor to Jamaica (Jim), who found it in one of the supermarkets, bought some, tried it out on some jerk chicken and loved it, then went back to the United States with plans of making a business out of it,” Mr. Chang informs.

“He (Jim) projected, after research, that there is a market for six million pounds of bamboo charcoal…so we should be producing to fill that order right now,” he tells JIS News.

Mr. Chang points out that the next item on the list is bamboo briquettes. “I have a standing order right now for five containers of briquettes a month, so it is just a matter of time before we finish the research and development and start producing that for export,” he notes.

He says there are also plans to supply a North American company with bamboo coffee stirrers, while work continue in securing markets for “simple stick products, such as tooth picks and chops sticks.”

Persons who are interested in the bamboo resuscitation initiative should call the BSJ at 926-3140 to get details on the registration and training programmes.