Sat | Dec 3, 2016

Red Stripes gets 49-year access to 300 hectare Wallen Farm

Published:Wednesday | March 11, 2015 | 12:00 AM

The way is now clear for beer maker Red Stripe Jamaica to proceed with phase two of Project Grow, its cassava farming initiative aimed at substituting some imported raw materials with local products.
Red Stripe signed a lease agreement Tuesday with state-owned Agri-Investment Corporation for 300 hectares of farm land in Wallen, St Catherine.
Red Stripe says it will proceed immediately to establish the necessary facilities and infrastructure needed to start cultivating sweet cassava.
Agri-Invest’s executive director, Everton Spencer, told Wednesday Business that the lease agreement for Wallen Farm is for 49 years. He also said that his agency is working closely with Red Stripe to identify more land to meet the beer maker’s goal of putting 2,500 hectares of land under cultivation.
Red Stripe Jamaica will pay a lease of $1 million per year over the life of the lease, said the company’s director of corporate relations, Dianne Ashton-Smith.
Managing Director of Red Stripe, Cedric Blair, said that by the end 2016 the brewery would have pumped US$11.07 million or about $1.28 billion into Project Grow. By that time phases three and four would have put the project in sight of its 2,500 hectare goal, and Red Stripe should have three cassava processing plants manufacturing raw material for making beer at a rate of 250 root tonnes per day.
Blair said Red Stripe has spent US$1.6 million so far on the pilot phase - a 14 hectare farm at Bernard Lodge. Ground was broken for a 20 root tonne per day processing plant at Red Stripe’s facility on Tuesday.
Red Stripe will invest US$700,000 in Wallen Farm, which will include rehabilitation of the Cheesefield Community Centre to train about 30 persons from the area who will work on the farm.
Phase three will be executed in the northeast, covering St Catherine, St Mary and St Ann, where a up to 1,000 hectares of cassava are expected to put under cultivation. Phase four will be a cluster of operations between St Elizabeth, Manchester and Trelawny, covering another 1,000 hectares.
Minister of Agriculture, Derrick Kellier, says the Jamaican Government will work with Project Grow to meet its land targets by aligning it with the Agro Parks programme.
Project Grow aims to substitute 40 per cent of barley imports needed for local beer production by 2016. By 2020 Red Stripe plans to substitute up to 70 per cent of their barley imports with cassava.
“Who would have thought that a alcohol and spirits company like Red Stripe could become a successful farmer?” said Red Stripe Jamaica chairman, Richard Byles.
“We have shown that we can do it on 40 acres; we’re about to show you that we can do it on 300 acres (and) eventually 500 acres. And if we can do it so can many other corporations,” Byles said, while reiterating that more companies ought to put their business skills behind agriculture.


This story has been updated to include the cost of the lease.

neville.graham@gleanerjm.com