THE National Environmental Planning Agency's (NEPA)demand assessment to document the usage of charcoal and fuelwood for the jerk industry has revealed ignorance among respondents about the origin of their fuel source and the absence of any programme of planting to replenish tree stock to ensure the longevity of that industry.
The survey, which was conducted last year over a four-month period from June to September, got responses from only nine establishments spread across the parishes of St Ann (two), Portland (four), Kingston (two) and Hanover (one). According to NEPA, "the number of responses received did not facilitate a statistical analysis of the information".
However, NEPA said the survey results indicate that the preferred trees (type of wood) used in the industry are sweetwood (family name Lauracea), pimento (Pimenta dioica) and logwood (Haematoxylum campechianum). NEPA said one establishment reported that they also used dead or old trees.
The agency, in responding to queries from the Jamaica Observer, said information received indicated that all establishments utilised fuelwood or charcoal, which had been sourced by a second party.
In addressing the quantity of wood or charcoal used, it was found that respondents purchased from five to 35 bags monthly. The agency said five respondents indicated that, along with the charcoal, they also purchased supplies of wood.
"The data indicated that the nine establishments utilise approximately 2,175 kilogrammes of charcoal, in total, on a weekly basis. The highest usage reported by an individual establishment was 875 Kilogrammes of coal per week," NEPA reported.
On the question of environmental stewardship, which sought to capture the level of responsibility of the harvester and the end-user of the product in the sustainability of the fuelwood industry, NEPA said that the "information received indicated that none of the establishments had engaged in any replanting programme".
It further said that the average monthly cost to the establishments was approximately $308,583.00, representing the combined value of the fuelwood or charcoal for all nine establishments. The environmental watchdog noted that "one entity accounted for 79 per cent of the monthly figure which correlated with their high usage of the commodity".
"The supply of fuelwood for use is predominantly by a second party who sources from different locations. None of the respondents could indicate the regions where the trees were harvested, and have not established a programme of planting to replenish tree stock in an effort to make the jerk industry sustainable," NEPA said.
Making his contribution to the 2013/14 Sectoral Debate in Parliament in June, Water, Land, Environment, and Climate Change Minister Robert Pickersgill said assessments had shown that most establishments use between five and 35 (25-kilogramme) bags of coal per week.
"During this financial year, the agency will finalise this assessment towards instituting a regulatory regime to manage the production of charcoal. My ministry does not, at this time, support the export of charcoal," Pickersgill said then.
In February this year, NEPA and the Forestry Department joined with the Jamaica Customs Department to prohibit the export of charcoal from Jamaica. According to the authorities, information was that one country was demanding 40 containers of charcoal per month.
"This would have certainly served to devastate our watersheds and create a negative impact on our environment," Pickersgill had indicated.