Fri | Oct 19, 2018

Beer land - Shaw tells Red Stripe acres available for more cassava production

Published:Saturday | April 7, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Ricardo Nuncio (right), managing director of Red Stripe, guides Audley Shaw (left), minister of agriculture and Metry Seaga (centre), president of the Jamaica Manufacturers Association on a tour of the new Line 8 at Red Stripe's factory on Spanish Town Road in Kingston yesterday.

Audley Shaw, minister of industry, commerce, agriculture and fisheries, yesterday pitched a plan to get idle lands into productive use when he told Red Stripe's Ricardo Nuncio that 20,000 acres of agricultural land is available, from which his company could benefit should it choose to increase its use of cassava in beer production.

He was speaking at the end of a tour of Red Stripe's newest production line in Kingston, yesterday.

"I am really pleased to see the new [production] line you have established, the level of automation, and the sophistication of the equipment. It's really inspiring to see what's happening here," said Shaw, "and to see that you have a major programme going now with cassava as part of your raw material. You are involving over 100 farmers so far, and with our discussions, we are hoping that over the next few years, you will significantly expand your cassava production in Jamaica," he said.

This, Shaw noted, was important, saying that there is enough land space available for even more cassava production.

Red Stripe began using cassava as a main ingredient in the production of its world-famous beer in 2015.

"The good news is we are not short of land. Nearby here, between St Catherine and Clarendon, we are going to have about 20,000 acres of land available from which you can easily get your four acres for cassava," Shaw told Nuncio, who is the managing director of Red Stripe.

Shaw said that of those 20,000 acres, approximately 70 per cent was already irrigated land.

"Imagine, irrigated land lying idle. It is unacceptable. Cassava, here we come as part of getting that vertical integration going," Shaw said.

The €$14 million bottling line, which was commissioned in October of 2017, produces 30,000 bottles per hour and three million for the year on a full cycle. It runs only three days per week and employs 27 persons to operate on a three-shift system, with nine workers per shift. The new production line produces Red Stripe and Dragon Stout for the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Caribbean markets.

Nuncio said that his company was proud to have invested heavily into Red Stripe beer and bringing production back to the island.

"It was a challenge. It wasn't easy doing that, but it was the right thing to do," he said.

Nuncio indicated that cassava was also being used in the production of Dragon Stout and that he was excited about the prospects for growth. He also said that the company would continue investing in the plant as it sought to compete with larger operations worldwide.

"Included as part of our continued investment is the construction of a new warehouse, an expansion of the mill to process more cassava, and a new warehouse for our finished goods," he reported. "So it's a lot of investment. We believe in this company. We believe that Red Stripe can be big across the world. It's a great brand. It represents Jamaica and what Jamaica is all about," Nuncio declared.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com