Multimillion dollar investment in bamboo production coming to Westmoreland
THE PARISH of Westmoreland is set to benefit from a multimillion US dollar investment of $337 million which will see the cultivation of 25,000 acres of farmlands to produce bamboo pulp for the global consumer tissue and personal hygiene industry.
The project is being undertaken by Bamboo Bioproducts Ltd and is estimated to create some 1,000 direct employment opportunities in Jamaica and in excess of 5,000 indirect ones.
Details of the project were outlined by David Stedeford, founder and chief executive officer of Bamboo Bioproducts, at a meeting with the Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce and other community-based stakeholders, which was recently held at the Wesleyan College in Torrington, Savanna-la-Mar. During this meeting, Stedeford provided an update on the status of the upcoming bamboo pulp mill that will be constructed in the community of Friendship in Westmoreland.
“We are here because you have the best species of bamboo as a suitable non-wood sustainable fibre for the tissue industry. Bambusa vulgaris bamboo that resides here (in Jamaica) is perfect because of its fibre length, strength and its absorbency. The critical issue we have here is that it also benefits the environment and that is key as well,” he said.
Stedeford said the project will be the first fully integrated bamboo market pulp mill outside of Asia. He said the intention is to work with local farmers in Westmoreland and its surrounding parishes, through co-operatives where they will be partnering and farming the land for bamboo production.
In welcoming the project, Dr Norman Dunn, state minister in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, said that the venture represents an important export opportunity for the country, as well as earning necessary foreign exchange to propel the economy forward.
He underscored the fact that one of the main areas being pushed by the Government is exports. Dr Dunn further disclosed that the project has expected revenues of US$1.5 billion over 10 years.
“While there are distinct benefits to Jamaica, the benefits to Westmoreland will extend far beyond the parish’s economic prospects. Consistent and sustainable employment opens up a whole new world of earners, (which will spill over) and improve the status of families; improve housing, education and health; and the impact of social and current cultural interactions will be significant. We, therefore, look forward to positive outcomes from this venture,” he stated.
Meanwhile, farmers who attended the meeting welcomed the initiative. “It is something that I have long awaited. As it relates to the co-operatives, which they mentioned, I’m in support of this as some farmers will not have sufficient acreage in growing the bamboo, but, in small groups, this would be achievable,” said Hopeton Bailey, chairman of the Grange Hill Community Development Committee, noting that it will have a positive impact on the economy and the parish.
So far, an environmental and social impact assessment on the project has been completed and submitted to the National Environment and Planning Agency for approval. Test plots have been cleared and are undergoing planting, and much of the logistical planning is far advanced, the company divulged.