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Grant gives Red Stripe thumbs up for cassava plan

Published:Thursday | December 4, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer

President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) Senator Norman Grant has endorsed the cassava cultivation project under which Red Stripe is investing US$1.3 million in a processing plant to extract starch to replace imported high-maltose corn syrup which currently accounts for as much as 40 per cent of the ingredients in some of its drink formulations.

Through this initiative, the company has embarked upon establishing a cluster of cassava farms across the island, in keeping with its overall aim of significantly cutting production costs and improving supply security by using more locally produced raw material in the brewing process. Through these farms, the company is looking to provide an ongoing sustainable cassava supply chain and has partnered with the agriculture ministry and a number of other stakeholder agencies such as the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Agency (CARDI).

However, Senator Grant is anticipating that in the near future, small farmers will also be brought into the partnership.

Growth and Development

"We are very excited about it and we are committing to the process and the programme ... . We think it is one way to expand growth and development in the sector. We will be going back to our farmers and say where you have idle lands, where those lands are suited, let us see if we can get some pilot projects in the first place in some of the parishes; where we can contract, grow, and from there, we can see where the spin-offs go," he told a Gleaner Editors' Forum on Wednesday.

The JAS president said the implications for his 228,000 members, the majority of whom are small farmers, represents a revolution in local agriculture.

Meanwhile, Dr Damian 'Damo' Graham, head of the Local Raw Material Supply Chain, is also optimistic about the future of the project.