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Red Stripe makes good on promise to mass produce cassava for brewing

Published:Sunday | May 7, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Karl Samuda (2nd left) signs the contract for the lease of 247 hectares of lands in St Catherine with managing director of Red Stripe, Ricardo Nuncio (left) and chairman of the Board of Directors of SCJ Holdings Limited (SCJH), Wentworth Charles. Looking on (from left) are Chief Executive Officer of SCJH, John Gayle; project manager for Local Raw Material Business Development, Red Stripe, Dr Cavell Francis-Rhiney; permanent secretary in the Ministry, Donovan Stanberry; legal officer, SCJH, Debbie-Ann Scott; and chief executive officer, Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Peter Thompson.

Local brewers Red Stripe has completed an agreement with the government to lease almost 250 hectares of cane lands for the mass production of cassava which it will use to substitute high maltose syrup in the production of various brewed products.

The agreement, which was signed between the Government’s land management company, SCJ Holdings Limited (SCJH), and Red Stripe on May 5 at the ministry’s New Kingston offices, is for lands located in the Windsor Park and Worchester areas of St Catherine to be put into cassava cultivation.

This expands on a previous agreement for 156.5 hectares of land which Red Stripe used to grow cassava between 2014 to 2016 as part of a pilot for the company's Project Grow initiative. The objective of the initiative is to increase the use of local raw material, particularly cassava, in the brewing of its products.

Agriculture Minister Karl Samuda said the initiative enhances the ministry’s Import Substitution Programme, which seeks to reduce the country’s food import bill by attaining self-sufficiency in the production of crops.

“This is an excellent start to something that I think will bear great fruit in the future. This relationship will have the effect on our economy that we are striving to realise, that is, the reduction of imports and the expansion of employment opportunities,” he noted.

The Government has also committed to ensuring adequate irrigation water source for the fields by facilitating a 25-year lease of the Windsor Park Well to Red Stripe.

Samuda emphasised that with technical assistance being provided by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), the project will create training and employment opportunities for unattached groups.

Managing director of Red Stripe, Ricardo Nuncio, said the company has been investing heavily in the production and processing of cassava for its brewed products, which are exported to the international market following the relocation of the United States processing plant to Jamaica in September last year.

“We decided to repatriate the volumes from the US. This means that we are now required to produce more beer, which means more cassava, which in turn, means that we will generate more employment opportunities,” he said.

Nuncio said the company has also signed contracts with independent farmers for the supply of cassava.

“We signed contracts with 100 farmers for more than 1,000 acres that are now being planted with cassava. That is an important milestone for the project’s future,” he said.

Up to 40 per cent of locally sourced raw material, particularly cassava, will be used in the company’s brewed products by 2020. This will replace imported High Maltose Syrup (HMS) by converting cassava into starch and cassava malt syrup.

Some 20 per cent of HMS will be substituted with locally grown cassava as early as this year.

Red Stripe will be making further investments to facilitate processing of the crop through the establishment of a cassava plant.

The company will also be modernising its brewery to ensure greater efficiency in manufacturing, to produce up to 100 root-tonne of cassava starch per day.