Bamboo project for Westmoreland to begin early next year
An artist's impression of the proposed pulp mill to be based on lands in Frome, Westmoreland.

HARVEST and cultivation for Jamaica's first bamboo project is set to start in the first quarter of next year. This is according to founder and chief executive officer of Bamboo Bioproducts International David Stedeford who gave an update on the project at a function hosted at the British High Commission, recently.

This is an important milestone as investors and lenders came together with representatives of the Government of Jamaica to signify their commitment to this new industry. The company will cultivate in excess of 25,000 acres of farmland across the island for the production of bamboo pulp as part of an approximately US$400-million investment in Jamaica, centred in Westmoreland.

"Our objective is to close the financing of the project at the end of this year so that we can start preparing and planting the land in the first quarter of 2023," he disclosed.

Mr Stedeford said the global financial institution underwriting US$300 million of the project attended the event in Kingston. Also present were investors, both Jamaicans and foreigners, who are participating in the project as shareholders.

Senator Aubyn Hill, minister of industry, investment and commerce, in welcoming the investment said that the intention is to use this project as a model to build out Jamaica's bamboo industry.

"The Government is very pleased [about this project] and we want to make sure that it is done as quickly as possible. I'm very optimistic about it and the Government is committed [to making] this project a success," he said.

Judith Slater, British high commissioner to Jamaica who hosted the function, said the British High Commission is happy to endorse the project.

"This is a big, bold and exciting project which has been in preparation for a few years, and we have helped to get the project to where it is now," she said.

The British high commissioner said the project ticks all the right boxes in that it will provide sustainability, inclusion, progression and social responsibility.

"The project promises to create jobs in local communities by utilising valuable agricultural land, creating new revenue streams, providing much-needed produce, but also in the process of harmonisation of roads and ports. What's not to like?" she asked.

Diane Edwards, president of Jampro which is the lead facilitator of the project, said the country stands to benefit from the investment.

"The value [of the project] is huge capital investment. It will probably be one of the biggest projects that Jamaica has ever seen. Number two, the fact that the project is going to be environmentally friendly and that it is going to have a low carbon footprint [is another plus]. It will give small farmers an opportunity to grow their own bamboo and bring to a central factory — [which is] the kind of relationship small farmers had with the sugar industry," she said.

It is estimated the project will create some 1,000 direct employment opportunities in Jamaica and in excess of approximately 10,000 indirect jobs.

The Bamboo Bioproducts team pointed to the substantial green credentials of the project which will attract carbon credits and produce its own biomass power. Additionally, surplus electricity will be available to Jamaican consumers at a competitively low price.

David Stedeford, founder and chief executive officer of Bamboo Bioproducts International, addressing the soft launch of Bamboo Bioproducts International at the British High Commission in Kingston, recently.

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