Jamaica takes a leading role in bamboo sector development at the Caribbean International Bamboo Symposium, co-hosted by INBAR
27-28 November, Kingston, Jamaica – In a keynote address delivered at the Caribbean International Bamboo Symposium in Kingston, Minister JC Hutchinson announced a range of new initiatives which the Jamaican Government is taking to promote bamboo use in the country and region.
In his speech, Hutchinson said, “We have for a long time recognised that Jamaica and the other nations of the Caribbean Community – CARICOM – have considerable bamboo resources”, adding that these “could play a major role in helping CARICOM countries to reduce poverty, promote green growth, develop trade and investment and restore degraded lands.”
Despite their huge potential, bamboo is currently little used across Caribbean countries, including Jamaica. To promote the sector’s growth, Hutchinson said that “bamboo is now officially recognised… by the Government as a new industrial crop in Jamaica”, meaning it will receive the same rights, privileges and benefits accorded other cultivated crops in Jamaica.
Hutchinson also raised a previously stated ambition, to explore the use of bamboo as a replacement to plastic and styrofoam. The government would do this by “providing full support to the development of Jamaican standards for the pulp, paper and packaging industries.”
Finally, Hutchinson told delegates that a bamboo development working group has already been established in Jamaica, and will focus on policy advice, research and the transfer of technologies and extension services needed to drive development.
Miss Jamaica celebrates the importance of bamboo (left); a selection of Caribbean bamboo products (middle); a packed session at the Caribbean International Bamboo Symposium (right).
Jamaica’s new policy support for bamboo sends a strong signal to other countries in the region, many of whom were present at the Caribbean International Bamboo Symposium. The two-day event was the first of its kind to be held in the region, and was co-hosted by INBAR and a broad range of partners: Jamaica’s Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture & Fisheries; the Bureau of Standards Jamaica; The Tourism Enhancement Fund; the Bamboo Industry Association of Jamaica; the Jamaica Business Development Corporation and other agencies. Over the course of 27 and 28 November, the Symposium welcomed some 250 delegates from the Caribbean, and aimed to highlight the benefits of bamboo production and manufacturing. It culminated with a tour of several bamboo facilities across the island by delegates.
As well as Hutchinson, Symposium speakers included representatives from the government, trade and standardisation bodies, investment funds, and leading bamboo companies from China, Jamaica, and the USA. Speaking to delegates, Professor Lu Wenming, Deputy Director General of INBAR, emphasised the growing importance of bamboo on the world stage: “At INBAR, we can see the increasing importance that bamboo has…. During the past two years, we have received letters of support from the Presidents of Cameroon, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Ethiopia and Madagascar, and several Heads of international organisations.” He added that, as a new Observer to the UN General Assembly, it is becoming increasingly clear that “bamboo and rattan can play a vital role in implementing the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
According to Sharon Ffolkes Abrahams, a Jamaican attorney and member of INBAR’s Board of Trustees (cover image), the Caribbean Bamboo Symposium is the start of something far bigger. “When bamboo fell into my portfolio as trade minister, I was first interested in its capability to increase earnings in some of Jamaica’s poorest areas – we have so much bamboo, but we aren’t doing enough with it!” She adds that people need to stop thinking of bamboo products in terms of handicrafts. “The range of innovations in incredible – we have traditional industries like bamboo furniture and bamboo charcoal, but did you know we have someone making bamboo ketchup?”
Minister JC Hutchinson receiving a copy of the book ‘Booming Bamboo’ from INBAR Deputy Director General, Professor Lu Wenming