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  • Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Audley Shaw, says focus must be placed on those value chains that allow for an increase in productivity, market expansion, and adaptability to technological upgrades.
  • Additional focus, he noted, must also include those value chains that allow for financial attractiveness, multiple partnerships and innovative models that are sustainable and climate smart.
  • The Minister was speaking at an inaugural knowledge-sharing forum hosted by the Desnoes and Geddes (D&G) Foundation, in collaboration with Red Stripe Jamaica, at the Mona Visitors’ Lodge, University of the West Indies, on November 21.

Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Audley Shaw, says focus must be placed on those value chains that allow for an increase in productivity, market expansion, and adaptability to technological upgrades.

Additional focus, he noted, must also include those value chains that allow for financial attractiveness, multiple partnerships and innovative models that are sustainable and climate smart.

The Minister was speaking at an inaugural knowledge-sharing forum hosted by the Desnoes and Geddes (D&G) Foundation, in collaboration with Red Stripe Jamaica, at the Mona Visitors’ Lodge, University of the West Indies, on November 21.

It was held under the theme ‘Beyond Talk: The Commercialisation of the Cassava Value Chain’.

“A cursory look at our beauty and cosmetic industry, for instance, gives clear sight of some of the opportunities for value chain development. We have over the years seen the introduction of several products in the market, which are created from our local herbs and other natural resources,” Mr. Shaw said.

The Minister further pointed to industry stakeholders, such as those in the tea and condiments business, who have “lines of value-added products made from our fruits and herbs”.

“Our breadfruit flour is another example. It is used as a staple in our soups (but) has been given a fresh appeal with a gluten-free variety now being sold locally and in overseas markets,” he noted.

Meanwhile, Mr. Shaw insists that parents should feed their children more nutritious foods that can be produced locally year-round.

This, he said, is necessary if the country is to increase and improve the contribution of agriculture to the country’s gross domestic product.

He reiterated plans to convert the Agricultural Marketing Corporation (AMC) export complex on Spanish Town Road in Kingston into a modern agro-processing centre, where young entrepreneurs can obtain 500 or 1,000 square feet of space to develop their own products.

The Minister said discussions are under way with the Factories Corporation of Jamaica in furtherance of this.

“Other centres are also being developed. A private-sector entity has taken over the old National Meats facility at Lydford in St. Ann with 500,000 square feet of storage space already [present], which becomes a natural logistics centre,” he indicated.

Turning to Red Stripe and its Project Grow initiative, Mr. Shaw congratulated the brewery for seeking to involve over 100 cassava farmers in the production of the tuber to replace imported high-fructose corn syrup in its Red Stripe beers.

“Red Stripe, a private-sector entity, is not only promoting the growth of our economy (but) our manufacturing sector, by its continued investment and expansion,” he said.

Mr. Shaw wants this move by Red Stripe to serve as an inspiration to other companies locally.

Red Stripe Jamaica’s Managing Director, Ricardo Nuncio, in his remarks, said since the Project Grow initiative was launched in 2013, the company has managed to secure four farms, which it has leased from the Government, representing over 1,000 acres.

“We have now signed contracts with 131 farmers for a total of 1,700 acres. We have gone to a massive industrial scale to process cassava, so we now have a 100-ton-per-day cassava processing facility at Red Stripe, and we’re ready to take this to the next level,” he said.

Mr. Nuncio expressed gratitude to Minister Shaw’s Ministry, which “has been a tremendous support” in getting lands as well as being able to explore different varieties for production and the knowledge on making cassava even bigger.

Gratitude was also expressed to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for the loan provided under the project, the partner farmers, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the HEART/Trust/NTA for training farmers.

For his part, Chairman of the D&G Foundation, Noel daCosta, explained that the knowledge-sharing forum is the first in a series to be facilitated by his organisation that will examine the development of the cassava value chain and the lessons learned that can be applied to other value chains.

Providing more updates on Project Grow, the D&G Foundation Chairman informed that field trials are currently being conducted on cassava varieties in St. Elizabeth, Clarendon and St. Thomas.