JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The Ministry of Industry, Investment, and Commerce will spearhead a government feasibility study to determine whether mined-out bauxite lands are suitable for the wide-scale planting of bamboo, and the growing of edible bamboo shoots.
  • The study, which was announced in 2014 by State Minister for Industry, Investment, and Commerce, Hon. Sharon Ffolkes Abrahams, and the overall pilot, form part of the Ministry’s Bamboo Products Industry Project (BPIP).

The Ministry of Industry, Investment, and Commerce will spearhead a government feasibility study to determine whether mined-out bauxite lands are suitable for the wide-scale planting of bamboo, and the growing of edible bamboo shoots.

Senior Director of Special Projects at the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ), Gladstone Rose, tells JIS News that the agency will partner with the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Biotechnology Centre, to be represented by Lecturer, Dr. Sylvia Mitchell, to conduct aspects of the study, which is expected to commence by year-end.

He says the study will be facilitated under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to be signed by representatives of both institutions shortly, and forms part of a two-year pilot being implemented at a cost of approximately $10 million.

The study, which was announced in 2014 by State Minister for Industry, Investment, and Commerce, Hon. Sharon Ffolkes Abrahams, and the overall pilot, form part of the Ministry’s Bamboo Products Industry Project (BPIP).

The BPIP aims to better position Jamaica to tap into the lucrative international market for bamboo products, estimated to value over US$20 billion.

Its implementation is being facilitated by the Bamboo and Indigenous Materials Advisory Committee (BIMAC), which is chaired by Mr. Rose, and based at the BSJ, an agency of the Ministry.

Mr. Rose tells JIS News that the feasibility study constitutes the first of the pilot project’s two phases that will target four acres of land in Clapham, St. Ann, over a 24-month period.

He points out that BIMAC has been discussing the possibility of planting bamboo on mined-out bauxite lands with agencies, such as the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI).

He says while this has been confirmed, in theory, “we will be doing (additional) research to match different types of soils with different species,…so that we can optimize on…their growth (in these areas).”

In this regard, Mr. Rose advises that Dr. Mitchell, who is also a member of BIMAC, will lead the research.

It is projected that this phase could cost up to $2 million to undertake, and as such, Mr. Rose says assistance with funding is being sought.

He points to the possibility of this being sourced externally with the assistance of the Planning Institute of Jamaica’s Community Renewal Programme (PIOJ/CRP).

“A submission was made by the PIOJ/CRP to the Organization of American States (OAS) for funding for a major bamboo project in Peckham, in Clarendon. This has been approved, and an agreement for the disbursement of approximately $15 million in grant funding signed between the Government, through the Ministry of Industry, Investment, and Commerce, and the OAS,” the BIMAC Chairman states.

He adds that provisions from this allocation are expected to significantly assist with the research to be done on the mined-out bauxite lands.

Mr. Rose says based on the study’s outcomes, “we will go into phase two, where we will seek to produce bamboo plants/saplings for (distribution to) farmers.” This engagement is projected to take place upwards of 12 months.

Mr. Rose advises that the pilot project will also include a public education component targeting current and prospective farmers.

This engagement, he points out, has already started with the training currently underway for 15 residents of Peckham, and surrounding communities, in bamboo harvesting and pre-processing techniques.

Mr. Rose also advises that stakeholder discussions are also underway in relation to sourcing financing for phase two, which is projected to cost approximately $8 million.

The Bamboo Products Industry Project’s implementation is consistent with the Government’s Job Creation and Economic Growth Strategic Priority, focusing on the development and growth of key productive sectors, specifically agriculture and rural development.

Notable among the products being demanded, especially by the United States, is organic bamboo charcoal, of which six million pounds is being sought of Jamaica, per annum.

Fulfilment of this demand is being targeted through strengthening of the various aspects of the local bamboo industry.

These include: increased investments, cultivations, as well as infrastructure strengthening of the stakeholders, through collaborations.

Engagements to this end have already been undertaken through a partnership involving local entities, charcoal producer Nelson’s Super Farm in St. Mary, and Kingston-based packager and exporter, Janitorial Traders Limited (JTL), and US distributor, Jamaican Jeems Company Limited.

This resulted in Jamaica’s first supply of internationally-certified organic bamboo charcoal, totalling 9,600 pounds and valued approximately $536,616 (US$4,800), being shipped to the United States, earlier this year.

Another container of 24,000 pounds of charcoal, valued some $5 million, is also slated to be shipped from Kingston to the United States, on Saturday, August 8.

The charcoal produced by Nelson’s Super Farm is the only one, globally, that is certified for export to the United States under the US Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Programme (USDA/NOP).

The organic bamboo charcoal facility at Nelson’s Super Farm is also the first such to be established in Jamaica.

Data from the Forestry Department shows that Jamaica has over 70,000 hectares of bamboo trees, comprising some 10 species, growing islandwide.

Of this number, 67,000 hectares are “mixed fields” comprising bamboo growing with other plants and trees, with the remaining 3,000 hectares being “pure” bamboo groves, devoid of other vegetation.

The major species growing in Jamaica is the Bambusa Vulgaris; but there are also small amounts of 10 other species growing islandwide.

Additionally, Mr. Rose says private property holders have indicated that they have, in some instances, up to 1,000 hectares of bamboo growing on their holdings.

These persons, he points out, have indicated an interest in participating in the Bamboo Products Industry Project, and contends that this augurs well for the sector’s growth.