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Big Boost for Cassava Production

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The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and brewing company, Red Stripe, have signed a lease agreement for land at Bernard Lodge, St. Catherine, to facilitate the multi-million dollar Project Grow cassava initiative, being undertaken by Red Stripe’s parent company, Diageo.

Signed at Red Stripe’s Spanish Town Road head office in Kingston on January 7, the agreement will facilitate the provision of an initial 36.2 acres of land to implement the pilot project.

The pilot forms part of Project Grow’s initial phase, targeting some 500 acres of land for cultivation over an 18-month period by Diageo/Red Stripe, with some US$1 million earmarked for this segment of the undertaking.

Implementation of the project forms part of moves by Diageo/Red Stripe to replace 20 per cent of imported inputs, primarily barley, used in the production of its globally renowned flagship product, Red Stripe Beer, by 2016.

Successful implementation is expected to pave the way for an increase in cassava production by Diageo/Red Stripe to some 2,400 acres over a five-year period. Approximately 2,500 stakeholders, primarily farmers, are expected to benefit from direct employment, with indirect benefits to accrue to another 3,750 persons.

Copies of the agreement were signed by officials of the Agro-Investment Corporation (AIC), which negotiated the agreement on behalf of the Ministry, and Diageo/Red Stripe.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, described the occasion as “historic”, noting that conclusion of the agreement has been “long in coming”.

The Minister pointed out that the initiative is consistent with the Ministry’s focus on import substitution, rural development, and job creation.

“Thirty-six acres might seem small. But what you intend to do is employ best practices and you are going to be moving cassava production to the level (where) farmers can make (a livelihood) out of growing cassava,” Mr. Clarke said.

Red Stripe’s Chairman, Richard Byles, noted that the company is using its global experience in beer manufacturing to deepen its commitment and investment in Jamaica. “We hope this is the beginning of a project that will lead to many jobs for Jamaicans and to the saving of millions of dollars (foreign exchange),” he said.

Chief Executive Officer of the AIC, Everton Spencer, said the agreement exemplified the government’s focus on private/public sector partnerships in advancing national development.

“Therefore, Agro-Investment Corporation is, indeed, elated to be partnering with Red Stripe in this venture that can change the face of the cassava industry and, by extension, the agricultural sector,” he added.

By Douglas McIntosh

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