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How Jamaica Is Rebuilding Its Economy Using Sustainable Bamboo – Forbes

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When David Stedeford, a UK-born paper-manufacturer vacationed with his family in Jamaica several years ago, his expert eye quickly noticed the agricultural potential of the land he saw. Little did he know that this recreational trip would later lead him to conceptualize a new manufacturing facility, with the capacity to produce 250,000 metric tonnes of bamboo pulp annually— by the end of 2021, Stedeford’s company, Bamboo Bioproducts Ltd. (BBP) will break ground on the first Bamboo Pulp mill in the Western Hemisphere.

The new BBP facility will occupy the lands of the once famous Frome Sugar Plantation in Jamaica’s parish of Westmoreland with pulp that is slated for sale to celebrated multinational brands, which have partnered with the manufacturer in order to meet the industry mandate for ‘non-wood pulp fiber’ in the production of personal hygiene and tissue products using Bambusa vulgaris or common bamboo, an open-clump type bamboo species, which is endemic to Jamaica and the preferred species for pulp production.

Following the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling in the 1990’s that preferential agreements between the island territories and the European Union contravened free trade principles, which virtually wiped out the Caribbean’s agricultural export market causing the once-booming sugar industry to be left for dead, all economic eggs were thrown into the single basket of tourism, which has now been derailed by COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Jamaica’s tourism sector, accounting for approximately 35% of GDP, reported an annual loss of $76 billion in 2020 due to the pandemic but government has become deeply intent on proving that it has not lost the race, but instead is switching into a higher gear, as it soars toward a diversified, stable economy.

“Jamaica has seen the potential impact that bamboo can have for its long-term economic growth,” says British High Commissioner to Jamaica, Asif Ahmad Growing. “Processing bamboo pulp for export is a solid step in moving the island forward. Export-led growth is essential for any developing country and in this case, there is strong demand from various industries for bamboo-based pulp.” 

Jamaica has exercised leadership, leveraging global partnerships to diversify its agro-industry, making itself more resilient while earning foreign exchange. Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness, believes the project is a step in the right direction towards greater growth opportunities for his people. The project is projected to create up to 5,500 jobs and earn $1.5 billion in revenues within its first 10 years.

“We are actively setting a new and positive trajectory for our development. That means being strategic in how we rethink avenues for growth, and aiming for opportunities which are rooted in sustainable industries,” says Holness.

“Introducing a new bamboo industry allows us to build on centuries of agricultural expertise, and to maximize the earning potential of existing resources. A shift [from sugar cane] to bamboo would see us re-purposing our sugarcane lands to grow alternative crops with major international demand. This is an excellent example of a revenue solution that builds value, is environmentally responsible, and immediately creates much needed jobs. There is also an added capacity for spawning additional industries from its bi-products, so Jamaica may realize the benefits of long-term industry expansion.”

Stedeford agrees that the timing of the project is opportune, explaining that “The cultivation and processing of bamboo pulp is a logical alternative to sugar cane, due to similarities between the species.”

“Jamaica’s centuries of tradition in sugar farming means that workers with existing labor skillsets will be offered sustainable jobs in a sustainable industry. Extensive rain-irrigated arable lands will be transformed into bamboo farms across Jamaica to supply the state-of-the-art Bamboo Market Pulp Mill, and support its full design capacity.”

With the high demand for bamboo pulp, BBP is working in close partnership with the Sugar Company of Jamaica (SCJ) Holdings Limited to finalise the acquisition and/or leasing of the necessary lands. The manufacturer is also in conversations with private landowners to secure supplementary farms.

The BBP execution team is comprised of a network of global paper manufacturing experts alongside Kingston-based Delta Capital Partners Ltd. (DeltaCap), a private equity firm which also provides management consulting support for the project. As lead financial arranger DeltaCap has facilitated local relationships for BBP and is actively advancing with the initial USD$300M capital raise, which is projected to generate an ROI of ~22%.

Zachary Harding, co-founder and CEO of DeltaCap, says that the project is one of many which will expose global stakeholders to game-changing investments in the Caribbean market. Harding has put his money where his mouth is, indicating that DeltaCap will be investing and taking an equity stake in the project.  

“DeltaCap is genuinely proud of this raise as it is a fully sustainable project which is environmentally responsible while delivering long-term economic benefits,” says Harding.

“This Bamboo project checks all the boxes— it improves the quality of life for many people, removes carbon emissions from the air, and delivers risk-adjusted profits. The plant will be co-gen, using bamboo bi-products to fuel the mill. The excess energy generated can be sold back to the national power grid. Everything about this project will be green.” 

Jamaican farmers will be the first to reap the benefits of Caribbean bamboo. Today, farmland in most of the English-speaking Caribbean ranges from 10-33% of land use. Jamaica surpasses this average with 41% of its 10,991 square kilometers set aside for agriculture. The target yield of raw bamboo of over 1 million tonnes annually will ensure high productivity of bamboo land.

Floyd Green, Jamaica’s Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries predicts that the project will have a deep impact on the lives of farmers across the entire country.

“In our present economic reality, countries have to pivot to effectively rebuild their economies,” says Minister Green.

“For us, bamboo cultivation and processing presents a competitive advantage. The BBP plant will be located in the West of the island and will actualize the ‘mother-farm’ concept by offering contracts for supplementary amounts of bamboo to smaller farms across the rest of the island. For thousands of farmers this means guaranteed sales and a steady income. For Jamaican farmers, growing bamboo means that they can now have a real shot at changing their lives, just by doing what they already do best.”

David Stedeford is confident that by the end of 2021, Jamaica will be well on its way to hosting the first sustainable bamboo industry in the region.

“Jamaica has the land, labor, logistics and climate to be the first Bamboo Market Pulp Mill in the West, delivering non-wood fibres globally, helping to meet the environmental sustainability mandate of the personal hygiene industry.”

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Canada to go big on budget spending as pandemic lingers, election looms

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By Julie Gordon

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada‘s Liberal government will deliver on its promise to spend big when it presents its first budget in two years next week amid a fast-rising third wave of COVID-19 infections and ahead of an election expected in coming months.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has pledged to do “whatever it takes” to support Canadians, and in November promised up to C$100 billion ($79.8 billion) in stimulus over three years to “jump-start” an economic recovery in what is likely to be a crucial year for her party.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals depend on the support of at least one opposition group to pass laws, and senior party members have said an election is likely within months as it seeks a clear majority and a free hand to legislate.

Furthermore, by September, all Canadians who want to be vaccinated will be, Trudeau has said.

Freeland has said the pandemic created a “window” of opportunity for a national childcare plan, and that will be reflected in next Monday’s budget along with spending to accelerate Canada‘s shift toward a more sustainable economy.

“It will be a green and innovative recovery plan aimed at creating jobs,” said a government source who declined to comment on specific measures. The budget will aim to help those “who have suffered most” the effects of the pandemic, the source said.

Critics say the government would be better to hold off on blockbuster spending because the economy has shown it is poised to bounce back, and to prevent the country from racking up too much debt.

“Clearly a garden-variety stimulus package is the last thing we need. This is pile-on debt,” said Don Drummond, an economist at Ontario’s Queen’s University.

“The risk is that at some point interest rates are going to go up and we’re going to be in trouble,” he said, pointing to the mid-1990s when Canada‘s debt-to-GDP ratio skyrocketed, leading to rating agency downgrades and years of austerity.

The Bank of Canada cut its benchmark interest rate to 0.25% to counter the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis and has said rates will not rise until labor market slack is absorbed, currently forecast for into 2023. That may change when it releases new projections on April 21.

EXPANDING ECONOMY

More than 3 million Canadians lost their jobs to the pandemic. As of March, before a third wave forced new lockdowns, only 296,000 remained unemployed because of COVID.

Despite still-high unemployment levels in hard-hit service sectors, the economy has expanded for nine straight months even as provinces have adjusted health restrictions to counter waves of infections.

“Once we see sustained reopening, we do think that the recovery will have quite a bit of momentum on its own,” said Josh Nye, a senior economist at RBC Economics.

“We think Canada‘s economy will be operating pretty close to full capacity by this time next year,” he said.

Economists surveyed by Reuters expect Freeland to project a deficit in the range of C$133 billion to C$175 billion for fiscal 2021/22, up from the C$121.2 billion ($96.7 billion)

deficit forecast in November. https://tmsnrt.rs/3wSJPcm

The deficit for fiscal 2020/21 ended in March is forecast by the government to top a historic C$381.6 billion ($304.5 billion).

Canada announced on Monday a C$5.9 billion ($4.7 billion) aid package for the country’s largest airline carrier, Air Canada, and said talks were ongoing with No. 2 carrier WestJet Airlines Ltd and others.

 

(Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Additional reporting by Fergal Smith in Toronto; Editing by Steve Scherer and Peter Cooney)

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Economy

CANADA STOCKS – TSX ends flat at 19,228.03

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* The Toronto Stock Exchange’s TSX falls 0.00 percent to 19,228.03

* Leading the index were Corus Entertainment Inc <CJRb.TO​>, up 7.0%, Methanex Corp​, up 6.4%, and Canaccord Genuity Group Inc​, higher by 5.5%.

* Lagging shares were Denison Mines Corp​​, down 7.0%, Trillium Therapeutics Inc​, down 7.0%, and Nexgen Energy Ltd​, lower by 5.7%.

* On the TSX 93 issues rose and 128 fell as a 0.7-to-1 ratio favored decliners. There were 26 new highs and no new lows, with total volume of 183.7 million shares.

* The most heavily traded shares by volume were Toronto-dominion Bank, Nutrien Ltd and Organigram Holdings Inc.

* The TSX’s energy group fell 1.61 points, or 1.4%, while the financials sector climbed 0.67 points, or 0.2%.

* West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell 0.44%, or $0.26, to $59.34 a barrel. Brent crude  fell 0.24%, or $0.15, to $63.05 [O/R]

* The TSX is up 10.3% for the year.

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Canadian dollar outshines G10 peers, boosted by jobs surge

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Canadian dollar

By Fergal Smith

TORONTO (Reuters) – The Canadian dollar advanced against its broadly stronger U.S. counterpart on Friday as data showing the economy added far more jobs than expected in March offset lower oil prices, with the loonie also gaining for the week.

Canada added 303,100 jobs in March, triple analyst expectations, driven by the recovery across sectors hit by shutdowns in December and January to curb the new coronavirus.

“The Canadian economy keeps beating expectations,” said Michael Goshko, corporate risk manager at Western Union Business Solutions. “It seems like the economy is adapting to these closures and restrictions.”

Stronger-than-expected economic growth could pull forward the timing of the first interest rate hike by the Bank of Canada, Goshko said.

The central bank has signaled that its benchmark rate will stay at a record low of 0.25% until 2023. It is due to update its economic forecasts on April 21, when some analysts expect it to cut bond purchases.

The Canadian dollar was trading 0.3% higher at 1.2530 to the greenback, or 79.81 U.S. cents, the biggest gain among G10 currencies. For the week, it was also up 0.3%.

Still, speculators have cut their bullish bets on the Canadian dollar to the lowest since December, data from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission showed. As of April 6, net long positions had fallen to 2,690 contracts from 6,518 in the prior week.

The price of oil, one of Canada‘s major exports, was pressured by rising supplies from major producers. U.S. crude prices settled 0.5% lower at $59.32 a barrel, while the U.S. dollar gained ground against a basket of major currencies, supported by higher U.S. Treasury yields.

Canadian government bond yields also climbed and the curve steepened, with the 10-year up 4.1 basis points at 1.502%.

 

(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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