Sea-island cotton cultivation set to treble

BY KARENA BENNETT Business reporter bennettk@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

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THE Jamaica Agricultural Development Foundation (JADF) hopes to have an additional 700 acres of sea-island cotton under cultivation by the end of 2016.

Chief Executive Officer of JADF, Vitus Evans, stated that the foundation expects to increase the cotton cultivation acreage from the current 300 acres to 1000 acres, in anticipation of its vision to have 5000 acres of cotton under production by 2018.

What's more, the CEO stated that he hopes to create additional value for the sea-island cotton project through the implementation of cotton weaving and spinning equipment here in Jamaica to start the production of cotton garments.

"This would be truly a Jamaican product, moving from our own cotton all the way to the final fabric and to the design model," he stated during the JADF and Embassy of Japan in Jamaica handing-over ceremony for the rejuvenation of the West Indian Sea Island Cotton Industry project yesterday.

Evans told the Jamaica Observer that the JADF is already in discussion with Caribbean Broilers for the production of 100 acres of cotton, along which the Jamaica Broilers who hopes to produce a further 150 acres.

"Caribbean Broilers planted an experimental plot of approximately two acres. They have now commenced harvesting and are extremely happy with the results," he added.

Last year, the Embassy of Japan in Jamaica donated $11 million to the JADF in support of the development of the West Indian sea-island cotton industry, a product which the JADF says has the potential to earn the country $85.6 billion annually. During the ceremony, Evans stated that the grant was used to purchase a high crop tractor, a boom sprayer and an inter-row cultivator which are currently in use on its farms.

"The cultivator is used in weed control, while the boom sprayer is used in crop care and disease management," former JADF manager of the sea-island cotton project, Horace Davis, told the Business Observer. "The tractor is also used in planting and to do general work on the farm."

"If we didn't get this equipment we would not be able to plant that 130 acres in St Mary because we had to be transporting the equipment back and forth to the three different farms under production. So the idea of having a set of equipment in a particular growing area was fulfilled," he said.

An acre of cotton production usually supplies 1200 pounds of cotton, one-third of which is lint and two-thirds of which is seeds, according to Evans.

"On average we get about 400 pounds of cotton from every acre of land," he said. "Right now we are being paid US$10 per pound for our cotton compared with the next best cotton which is Egypt's super-fine Giza 45 which sells for US$1.50 per pound."

The JADF has shown particular interest in the mother farm concept which Caribbean Broilers presently practises with their chicken farmers. Evans added that if that model were to be adopted, we could see
CB directly involved in cultivating a certain acreage on its own farms to ensure critical mass whilst supporting independent farmers to grow on contract.

"The market is strong and we are looking at the plant to be grown on marginal lands of which there are plenty in Jamaica," he said.

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