Business

Jamaica can earn US$800m from sea island cotton

Sunday, February 23, 2014    

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JAMAICA can potentially earn US$800 million ($85.6 billion) annually from exporting Sea Island Cotton, according to expert estimates.

Initially 500 acres of the crop will be cultivated in a pilot project with $11 million in grant assistance from the Japanese Government. The country can however maximise its earning potential by increasing the acreage tenfold.

If the industry were to attain its putative potential it would rival the foreign exchange earnings of the third largest industry in Jamaica that of the bauxite/alumina sector.

“We estimate that a vertically integrated west Indies sea Island Cotton Industry supported by 5,000 acres of cotton production when fully implemented will provide employment for over 2,000 persons full-time; 15,000 on a seasonal basis and generate income in excess of US$800 million per year in foreign exchange,” stated Vitus Evans CEO at Jamaica Agricultural Development Foundation (JADF) in his address at a Wednesday press conference at JEA’s Kingston headquarters to announce the pilot project.

The figure was corroborated by Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke in his address.

“The prospect of the West Indian Sea Island Cotton industry which could create 15,000 new jobs and generate almost US$1 billion in foreign exchange earnings annually is an initiative which the Government must support at all costs.

I therefore have no difficulty in pledging my support and that of my ministry to this project,” stated Clarke. But cynics cite historic false-starts and price fluctuations as evidence of the crop’s unattainable potential.

Technocrats now posit that this time around markets and farmlands are secured. Jamaica produces Sea Island Cotton with a quality and texture that garners a comparatively higher price than in most parts of the world.

The JEA indicated that the industry would require government support to provide sufficient lands with irrigation infrastructure and farmer loans.

Dalkeith Hann, chairman of the JADF indicated in his address that over the past decade JADF, the University of West Indies and Ministry of Agriculture had spent time and money developing a vertically integrated Sea Island Cotton industry in Jamaica.

The JADF represents Jamaica on the board of the West Indian Sea Island Cotton Association which owns and controls the trademark.

“There is a high demand internationally for West Indian Sea Island Cotton , the major buyers are from Switzerland and Japan with interest also from the USA , Italy and UK,” explained Hanna.

“The cotton is presently being grown in Antigua, Barbados, Nevis and Jamaica — with Jamaica being the only island capable of large scale production at this time.”

Hanna stated that cotton is a niche product with annual global demand at six million pounds (lbs) of lint. One third of the demand comes from Japan.

“Hence today, I am especially pleased to join in Jamaica’s development endeavour in the agricultural field by providing this grant to rejuvenate the West Indian Sea Island Cotton Industry,” stated Ambassador Yasuo Takase of Japan in his address.

“The West Indian Sea Island Cotton is known by its highest quality of its kind, resulting in great demand by the Japanese industry.

Thus, revitalisation of the West Indian Sea Island Cotton production in Jamaica benefits both Jamaican farmers and Japanese industry.” The grant is funded through the Grant Assistance for Grass-roots and Human Security Projects of the Government of Japan.

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