Hanover thinking high grade
The projection of a local multibillion-dollar ganja and hemp industry, which could provide a financial panacea for Jamaica's economic woes, has been described as a pipe dream by Dr David Stair, the custos of Hanover.
Phillip Paulwell, minister of science, technology, energy and mining, has set his sights on at least US$1 billion per annum flowing into government coffers from the ganja industry when it comes on stream.
However, he is firmly of the view that the pending new agriculture subsector will not generate anywhere near that financial high being anticipated.
"In terms of the world market, Jamaican will never be a major player," Stair bluntly declared.
The medical doctor, who is a son of Hanover, cited disadvantages, in terms of economies of scale, as well as Jamaica's late start in getting into legal income-generating activities centred on ganja, in support of his statement.
"In America, more ganja is grown on one farm than Jamaica will ever produce. Ganja has been growing all over the world for decades. State-sponsored research has been in place for the past 20 to 25 years in the major players on the planet - US, Canada, European countries, Israel, etc," declared Dr Stair.
"The fact is that most research that can be done on marijuana has been done and it is already being utilised in other places. Down here, those who bury them head in the sand don't seem to understand what is going on the world stage. You have ganja growers' associations in America for decades. ... Ganja is grown now by computer, you don't even have to go out and plant it anymore," the custos said.
However, he supported the suggestion of catering to high-end clients in various niche markets, as articulated by Steven Rivierie, president of the Hanover Hemp and Ganja Farmers Co-operative, which is positioning itself to be a major player in the cultivation of ganja for the various legal channels that will become available once the Cannabis Licensing Authority and other requisite measures are put in place.
Both agreed good money can be made from investing in selective production of ganja products and derivatives. Rivierie shared his vision for ensuring Jamaica get its fair share of the lucrative returns to be earned from this emerging industry.
"When we talk about ganja in Jamaica, we not looking at huge production, what is grown in California, in Colorado and Washington is grown under lights. People want sun-grown herb, not those grown under lights, using chemical fertiliser - organic ganja, grown in the sun," the Hanover resident said.
"This brings a lot of spin-offs in terms of the cottage industries, rest-stop tourism, etc. When we can run a ganja tour which can visit Kendal, Riverside and then stop at a river or a waterfall for a Jamaican meal, for a Rastafari experience, we are increasing the revenue generated by tourism, which might otherwise go Montego Bay, Ocho Rios or Negril. We will keep that revenue in Hanover. We are really saying we want an industry for Jamaicans and we want Jamaican strains and niche markets, the people who will pay a higher price for a more quality product. We [are] not looking to be the Wal-Mart of ganja."
Dr Stair endorsed this view.
"If ganja becomes a legal entity, then we should concentrate on the niche marketing because we might have something here that may be better than elsewhere, as with most of our food stuff grown in the country, like pimento, ginger - it is better than anywhere else on the planet," he shared. "This is, I think, is something that we need to concentrate on."