Shaw: Top motor company wants to grow hemp in Jamaica

Staff reporter

Sunday, June 10, 2018

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw has disclosed that Government is zealously seeking to facilitate a top-tier motor vehicle company desirous of cultivating industrial hemp in Jamaica.

Shaw recently returned from a cannabis business exploration mission in Canada.

“A major motor car company is interested to grow hemp in Jamaica for use as an alternative in the fabric and decoration of their vehicles,” Shaw announced. “That is being actively pursued right now,” he added.

In fact, noting that with the international cannabis industry set to flourish by some US$150 billion in the next seven years, Shaw is adamant that “we in Jamaica need to step up our game in this very important industry, otherwise the rest of the world is going to run away and leave us.

“In a couple years' time it will approach a US$100-billion industry and by 2025 it is estimated to reach a US$150-billion globally,” Shaw noted.

For instance, he argued that in Canada where he visited “a couple weeks ago” the cannabis industry is quickly galloping towards the Can$20-billion mark.

“What is happening over there with hemp and cannabis is nothing short of awesome. It's already rapidly approaching a Can$20-billion industry. Two companies over the past several weeks have merged to create, in one case, a Can$8-billion company, another case a Can$7 billion company — and they are listed on the Canadian stock exchange,” Shaw remarked.

He further underscored that medicinal cannabis, which includes industrial hemp in different strains, is a big part of the future of medicine globally.

“We need to understand that!” Shaw emphasised.

“Here is this miracle plant — we call it ganja, some call it marijuana, others call it cannabis and some strains are hemp; but call it by whatever name, it is a natural plant that has many more good qualities than it has bad qualities, and it's a question of the effective management of it so that it can redound to our benefit as a country even as it is being manifested now in developed countries. Imagine now in Canada on the Canadian stock exchange how much more legitimate can you get.”

He was speaking at the official opening of the second annual staging of Build Expo and Conference at Montego Bay Cultural Centre Friday evening.

In his welcome remarks, chairman of Build Expo and Conference Dwight “Debo” Crawford reiterated his call for idle sugar cane lands to be set to use in the cultivation of industrial hemp.

“Everyone here knows that Jamaicans are farmers at heart. So when we observe the levels of unused farm lands, it's telling. Therefore, with smart ideas like the conversion of abandoned cane lands into hemp lands, for example, will stimulate some of these once-vibrant communities,” posited Crawford, who is also the Jamaica Labour Party councillor for the Welcome Hall Division in St James.

His notion was fully supported by mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Homer Davis.

“I know the chairman of this Build Expo, Councillor Crawford has embarked on the idea of putting our cane lands into growing hemp that can be used in the construction industry. You have the support of the St James Municipal Corporation,” the Montego Bay mayor said.

Endorsement of Crawford's idea also came from Hardware and Lumber Limited's deputy CEO, Olive Downer Walsh.

Hardware and Lumber is the gold sponsor of Build Expo and Conference 2018.

“I must admit Dwight, I wear on behalf of Hardware and Lumber two hats: construction and agriculture. And I was very pleased when I listened to your desire for cane lands that are abandoned to be considered for hemp; and I said yes, because it would remain in agriculture. So Hardware and Lumber supports this dream of showcasing excellence while facilitating a process for positive contribution to a growing sector and economy,” Downer Walsh remarked.

Meanwhile, Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang — who is in charge of the Government in the absence of Prime Minister Andrew Holness, currently on a visit to Canada — and Canadian High Commissioner to Jamaica Laurie Peters congratulated Crawford in the staging of the event, which has significantly grown since last year's inaugural staging.

“I really want to extend my congratulations and commendations to Mr Crawford and to extend the support of the Government. Dwight's efforts not only deserve commendation but I think reflects the kind of innovation and entrepreneurship that has come to characterise Montego Bay,” Dr Chang stated.

Build Expo and Conference was conceptualised by Crawford as a forum to connect the local building development and construction sector with the global reservoir of ideas and innovations that exists to advance the industry and other related businesses to the sector.

It also is intended to educate and sensitise the Jamaican consumer about the sectoral trends that are at work, to deliver more attractive, functional and cost-effective housing solutions to them.

Where as the expo serves as a platform for showcasing products and services of participating companies, the conference is a forum for educating the public and advancing the knowledge base of industry professionals.

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