The Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce has engaged with an investor to establish a bamboo pulp and paper mill in Westmoreland, valued at approximately US$296 million.
It is estimated that the project will add 500 direct jobs and approximately 5,000 indirect jobs to the local economy over the next 10 years, said Portfolio Minister, Hon. Audley Shaw, in his contribution to the 2021/2022 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (May 11).
He noted that the bamboo pulp and paper mill, to be situated in Frome, will be the first of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean and will create opportunities for local farmers.
“The company requires a total of 20,000 acres of arable land to establish bamboo orchards to meet the one million tonnes of bamboo fibre required per year. This opens up opportunities for owners with land suitable for bamboo cultivation to supply the mill,” he noted.
He said that contract cultivation is also under consideration within the surrounding communities and beyond.
Mr. Shaw informed that Jamaica’s bambusa vulgaris variety of bamboo will be utilised in the milling process, which offers further opportunities for sustainable harvesting of existing resources under the control of the Forestry Department.
Turning to other developments in the bamboo industry, Minister Shaw told the House that the Bamboo Industry Association of Jamaica (BIAJ) has secured a commitment from the United States (US)-based Resource Fiber Limited to purchase bamboo mat boards from Jamaica if the samples made from the bambusa vulgaris specie meet the company’s specifications.
As such, he noted that a Bamboo Mat Board Sample Development Project has been implemented with funding in the sum of $2.7 million through the National Housing Trust (NHT) as a part of the existing Potential Use of Bamboo in Affordable Housing Project.
The sample mat board project started in March 2021 and will run for three months.
“We want to take advantage of the export opportunity which is presented and the potential to further diversify the bamboo industry to provide channels for greater investment in the industry,” the Minister said.
He further reported that Jamaica has received grant funding in the sum of US$1.97 million from the Chinese Government for the development of a Bamboo Industrial Demonstration Facility.
It will provide capacity building and demonstration workshops for farmers and investors, knowledge and skills transfer to local participants, and foster community development.
“The plant will offer space for training and the manufacture of furniture (for schools etc), bamboo charcoal, toothpicks, barbecue sticks, straws, disposable utensils and other craft items,” Minister Shaw informed.
He said that the Government will contribute US$500,000 to the project.
Minister Shaw told the House that the project will allow for much-needed extension services to be applied to the cultivation of bamboo.
He said that the undertaking holds promise for structured/orchard cultivation of the crop to ensure sustainability and standardisation and to secure a steady supply of raw material for manufacturing.