Mon | Sep 25, 2017

Pimento tree 'assault' nothing new, historical records show

Published:Tuesday | January 26, 2016 | 1:00 AM
Local pimento-smoked marlin and home-made gravadlax.

research has shown that the assault on Jamaican pimento trees is nothing new, especially among players in some sections of the manufacturing sector.

According to a lecture on Jamaican pimento, which was published by the University of the West Indies' (UWI) Department of Chemistry at the end of the 19th century, umbrella handles made of pimento wood were a huge fashion statement, which threatened the survival of the trees.

"The great demand led to wanton cutting of the saplings, and it was only through strict controls legislated in 1882, and equally strict enforcement of them, that saved the young pimento trees from disappearing altogether," the UWI document said.

THREAT TO PIMENTO

Retired agronomist John Gayle also commented on the threats to pimento trees in his 2013 book, Pimento: The Jamaican Allspice Story.

Gayle's book, which was sponsored by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, was published in the hope that its publication would develop into a powerful tool for revitalising a fast-declining pimento industry.

"It is recorded that many years ago, the wood was used in the United Kingdom and the United States to make walking and umbrella sticks, and thousands of saplings were exported for those purposes between 1876 and 1930, a trade which nearly ruined the industry," wrote Gayle, who worked in pimento research for more than 40 years. "In 1881, a huge shipment of over 521,000 suitable young trees, uprooted from pimento walks established for the purpose and with a value of £3,125.00, was exported."

"Due to its durability, the wood was used for making fence posts and uprights in dwelling houses," continued Gayle. "The demand for the wood for use in the preparation of jerk pork is so great that one processor in the United States some years ago made enquiries about the prospect of importing wood from Jamaica. The idea was not entertained on the logical grounds that such a business venture would extensively diminish the tree population and severely damage the industry, in that bearing trees would not escape depletion."