US$280-m bamboo project to start this year

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US$280-m bamboo project to start this year

BY MARK CUMMINGS
Editor-at-Large
cummingsm@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, January 24, 2020

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HAGUE, Trelawny — State minister in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Floyd Green says the US$280-million bamboo project on the former Long Pond Sugar Estate in Trelawny, is expected to get off the ground later this year.

Addressing the launch of the 65th staging of the Hague Agricultural and Industrial Show near Falmouth, on Wednesday, Green said the crop will be grown on roughly 2,000 acres of land on the property.

“This project will help us to reduce the use of plastics and styrofoam, and will help in the creation of employment,” the state minister told the gathering.

“You know that all over the world they are looking for biodegradable options, and we have the land, we have the expertise. There are places across the country where bamboo grows wild — we want to make an industry out of bamboo,” he said.

Green added that there are overseas companies that are interested in exporting the bamboo — and its by-products — grown in the island. He noted that the initiative forms part of the Government's thrust to diversify agriculture in Trelawny.

Up to the 1990's, sugar cane was the dominant crop grown in the parish. But, in recent years, there has been a significant decline in the cultivation of the crop due to several factors, including the lack of competitiveness of sugar — a by-product of sugar cane — on the world market.

Green noted that Trelawny has witnessed exponential investments in the tourism sector, citing the expansion of Royalton White Sands Beach Hotel, the construction of Excellence Hotel, the 1,000- room H10 Hotel, the cruise shipping pier, and the Amaterra 800-room development.

He lamented, however, that domestic crop production has not kept pace with the demand for agricultural produce.

“As we see the growth in the rooms in the parish, which will clearly lead to a growth in visitors, we have to ensure that we have the growth in agriculture to supplement the growth in visitors and rooms.

“The reality is that, part of the truth we have to change is that we see that tourism is growing but we don't see a commensurate rise in the agricultural numbers. But we know that the people must eat, so it therefore suggests that the people are being fed by importation, and that is part of the reality that we have to change,” Green argued.

He challenged the Trelawny farmers to diversify their crops.

The state minister noted that the Government is taking steps to reduce the $40-billion annual food import bill for the tourism sector, citing the Tourism Linkages Council and an online platform that “allows farmers to put what you have to offer and the hotels can link with you directly”.

Green pointed out that the Government is also moving to reduce the cost of irrigation and will dispatch 30 district constables across the island “to help and focus solely on praedial larceny”, adding that 10 motor vehicles will also be allocated to the Praedial Larceny Unit.

“We are really moving to strengthen the Praedial Larceny Unit. In fact, our priority for 2020 is to strengthen the unit so that when you go out to farm, you can farm in peace,” he told the gathering.

This year's staging of the Hague Agricultural and Industrial Show will be held under the theme: 'Agricultural Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Change'.

Vice-chair of the planning committee, Tova Hamilton, in her remarks, stressed the importance of agriculture to Trelawny, as she called for more investments in that sector.

“It is no secret that Trelawny is poised for growth and is, arguably, one of the parishes that can provide the gateway to economic development with the existence of the historic Falmouth Cruise Pier, its Georgian architecture and the recent construction boom in tourist accommodations,” she noted.

“Based on these factors, it is my belief that there ought to be symbiotic growth in our agriculture sector,” Hamilton continued.

She argued that, in an effort to achieve transformational growth, it is imperative that events such as the Hague Agricultural and Industrial Show must be promoted as a means of marketing the industry as a viable career choice, especially for the youth.

“It is also important as a parish that we place development of our agricultural sector at the nucleus of all our operations,” she added.


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