We have a big ambition for cassava and it is going to take a massive investment," said Red Stripe Managing Director Cedric Blair.
Blair was addressing Government officials, which included Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and minister of industry, investment and commerce Anthony Hylton, following a tour of the Spanish Town Road plant on October 8.
To date, the company has spent US$1.1 million on the first phase of its Project Grow initiative and is committing to investing even more over the next five years.
"Our preliminary numbers from our farmers are that, under this pilot, we will produce about 70 tonnes per hectare. This means that we will produce more cassava on our pilot farm than the rest of Jamaica combined," Blair said.
The company's plan, he added, is to get to 2,500 acres within the next three to five years and to employ one person per acre.
Blair said that the company also plans to train an additional 39 Jamaicans to work on its cassava farms as well as invest a further US$800,000 to equip a cassava factory for processing activities.
"The processing plant will be up and running by January 2015 and we will be reaping cassava in February, and so we will be making beer from locally grown cassava starting February of next year," he said.
Blair further pointed out that under phase two of the project, Red Stripe will add another 142 hectares at a cost of approximately US$200,000.
Under phase three, the brewing company will develop a second cluster of farms within the parishes of St Catherine, St Ann and St Mary, which will see an additional 200 hectares and plans for further expansion to about 1,000 hectares.
He said that the final phase of the project will see the development of a third cluster in St Elizabeth, Manchester and Trelawny for another 200 hectares, with a view to expanding this to another 1,000 hectares.
Responding to Blair's revelations, Prime Minister Simpson Miller commended the company for its foresight and innovation in developing such a "trailblazing project".
"We celebrate Red Stripe's cassava innovation, which is having direct economic impact on hundreds of farmers and workers," she said.
"I'm pleased to learn that the 36 acres under cassava cultivation will be expanded in the next 12 months to incorporate 400 acres through engaging contract farmers. While you're doing business, you're providing jobs for our farmers," the prime minister noted.
She said greater levels of investments are required to realise the enormous possibilities of the production of cassava starch and other products along the value chain.
"These include flour, bammy, bread, paper, pills, and other pharmaceutical products. We need more companies, big and small, to follow the example of Red Stripe to look at how to retool their businesses," she added.
Simpson Miller said Red Stripe's investments are aligned with the Government's firm and ongoing efforts to build a new Jamaican economy on the platforms of culturally inspired creativity and innovation.
"Through this transformational move, you're taking your business operations to the next level, while taking Jamaica to the next level as well. Red Stripe is making business decisions that will lead to increased earnings for your shareholders and job security for your workers," the prime minister said.
Minister Hylton also lauded the brewing company for its investment in Jamaica.
He noted that Red Stripe's strategy for growth parallels the Government's national strategy for growth, which is investment in technology and innovation.
"It involves reworking your processes, putting good quality management and workers at the forefront and consistency in working your strategy," the minister said.
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