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Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Anthony Hylton, says the advancement of the natural fibre industry can be a catalyst for the country’s rural economic development.

“This industry offers a strategy for addressing rural development and impacting the livelihoods of its people,” the Minister said.

He was addressing the opening of a Caribbean Natural Fibre Symposium at the Jamaica Business Development Corporation’s (JBDC's) Incubator and Resource Centre in Kingston, Tuesday May 29.

Fibresare a class of hair-like materials that are continuous filaments or are in discrete elongated pieces, similar to pieces of thread. They can be spun into filaments, thread or rope. They can also be matted into sheets to make products, such as paper or felt.

The Minister noted that the industry, when developed, offers an opportunity to extend the value chain for local producers, and presents a strategy for integrating these producers into the local supply chain, adding that it can also be an important source of income for many Jamaicans in the artisan industry.

"Natural fibre represents an accessible and sustainable source of raw materials for the small artisan industry, which requires a minimum amount of resources to get off the ground. This suggests the potential for a natural fibre industry to create jobs at a minimal cost,” he said, pointing out that products and handicrafts made from local natural fibres can also generate income for women, especially in the rural areas.

Mr. Hylton said the industry can also create a channel for new investment opportunities for Jamaica, and that with the country’s Sea Island Cotton already fetching the top price of US$10.50 per pound on the world market, compared to US$2.00 per pound for other elite brands of cotton from around the world, there are increased opportunities to produce other value-added products to further develop the industry.

He argued that development of the natural fibre industry is also important as it provides opportunities for science and technology-based innovation, as well as opportunities for building research and product development capabilities.

The two-day symposium is being put on by the Commonwealth Secretariat, under the theme: ‘Natural Fibre Industries: Building Collaborative Networks for Success’.

Over 60 delegates from the Caribbean, North America, India, the United Kingdom, South Africa and Jamaica are participating in the event.

The United Nations declared 2009 as the International Year of Natural Fibres and since then the Commonwealth Secretariat has developed programmes to create awareness and build the capacity of its member countries to increase economic utilisation of natural fibres.

The symposium is part of a Commonwealth Secretariat initiative to establish a Global Natural Fibre Forum (GNFF), a worldwide network of stakeholders interested in the economic use of natural fibres.

It has been established as a vehicle through which stakeholders, including small farmers and small enterprises, will share information and knowledge on the importance and economic utilisation of natural fibres, as well as on technology, markets and market access, experts, product designs and research.

The symposium seeks to build collaborative networks at the country and regional levels under the GNFF banner; and to develop programmes that the networks will continue working on, as they develop natural fibre industries in their own countries.

 

By Alecia Smith-Edwards, JIS Reporter