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Jamaica is to embark on the large scale production of bamboo for the construction of low-cost houses and value added products such as furniture and charcoal for the export market.
It says the aim is to tap into the lucrative global market for bamboo products, which is estimated to reach US$20 billion by next year.
The project is being spearheaded by the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ), and involves collaboration with the Bamboo and Indigenous Materials Advisory Council (BIMAC), a national committee with public and private sector involvement.
BSJ special projects director, Gladstone Rose, says the technologies provided by international partners will help Jamaica in maximizing the potential of bamboo.
“These technologies will help us to make bamboo plywood, bamboo wood – the board can be used to make students’ desk and chairs; just about any product that can be made from trees,” he said.
Local architects, engineers and builders, who were trained in building techniques in Columbia, have constructed a 260-square foot bamboo-framed house, which was on display at the Denbigh Agricultural and Food Show last month.
Rose says the bamboo is used to “replace the steel that would occur in a block and steel house. Steel is only used in the joining of the house… during an earthquake it would have the necessary resistance to crumbling.”
He said the BSJ is conducting training for persons employed in the industry, which will last until the end of November, and is setting up three bamboo factories across the island.
The agency is also ensuring that persons can grow, preserve and harvest the bamboo for its various uses.
“It can be planted just like planting cane for sugar. The potential for export is great, and you can get jobs created, and be assured of the creation of industries”, he stresses.
Meanwhile Acting Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries,. Derrick Kellier, is calling for persons to desist from chopping down bamboo for use as yam sticks.
“We are collaborating to spread the word; stop destroying the existing bamboo reserves, so that we will have them for use,” he said, adding that bamboo offers enormous potential for farmers and others.
“It is a very fast growing plant, and as soon as the industry gets going when persons see the economic value, they will start putting in their own acreages. It grows on marginal lands as we have seen across the country, so we are well poised to take full advantage of the industry,” Kellier said.
President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), Senator Norman Grant, says that bamboo “is an industry whose time has come.”
“There is a potential where we can develop a US$15 million industry by exporting bamboo as charcoal. We are excited about that and we will continue to develop a new industry that will add to the economic landscape of Jamaica,” he added.