Growth & Jobs | $61b bamboo production outfit to get under way
Agricultural project set to boost employment, green energy production in Westmoreland
CULTIVATION OF Jamaica’s first large-scale bamboo farm is set for the first quarter of next year.
This is according to founder and Chief Executive Officer of Bamboo Bioproducts International David Stedeford, who gave an update on the project at a function hosted at the British High Commission in Kingston recently.
This is an important milestone for the investors and financiers of the project, who, along with representatives of the Government, met to signal their commitment to the development of an industry that promises significant economic returns.
“Our objective is to close the financing of the project at the end of this year, so that we can start preparing and planting the land in the first quarter of 2023,” Stedeford disclosed.
He said that the international financial institution that is underwriting US$300 million of the project cost also attended the event in Kingston with the investors, both Jamaicans and foreigners, who are shareholders in the project.
The scope of the project provides for the cultivation of more than 25,000 acres of farmlands across the island for the production of bamboo pulp, as part of an approximately US$400-million investment in Jamaica, centred in Westmoreland.
Senator Aubyn Hill, minister of industry, investment and commerce, in welcoming the investment, said that this project is being used as a model to build out Jamaica’s bamboo industry.
“The Government is very pleased [about this project], and we want to make sure that it is done as quickly as possible. I’m very optimistic about it and the Government is committed [to making] this project a success,” he said.
Judith Slater, British high commissioner to Jamaica, who hosted the function, said the British mission is happy to endorse the project.
“This is a big, bold and exciting project which has been in preparation for a few years, and we have helped to get the project to where it is now,” she said.
Slater said the project ticks all the right boxes, as it will provide sustainability, inclusion, progression and social responsibility.
“The project promises to create jobs in local communities by utilising valuable agricultural land, creating new revenue streams, providing much-needed produce, but also in the process of harmonisation of roads and ports; what’s not to like?” she asked rhetorically, to highlight the benefits to accrue from the project.
Diane Edwards, president of JAMPRO, which is the lead facilitator of the project, said the country stands to derive significant benefits from the investment.
“The value [of the project] is huge capital investment. It will probably be one of the biggest projects that Jamaica has ever seen. Number two, the fact that the project is going to be environmentally friendly and that it is going to have a low carbon footprint [is another plus]. It will give small farmers an opportunity to grow their own bamboo and bring to a central factory, [which is] the kind of relationship small farmers had with the sugar industry,” she said.
The project is estimated to create some 1,000 direct employment and in excess of 10,000 indirect jobs in Jamaica.
Additionally, the Bamboo Bioproducts team pointed to the substantial green credentials of the project, which will attract carbon credits and produce its own power from biomass. The team said the surplus electricity will be offered to Jamaican consumers at a competitively low price.