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On cotton high with $11m

Albert Brandford

On cotton high with $11m

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AN $11 MILLION PROJECT is under way between a local cotton company and the Centre for Food Security and Entrepreneurship of the University of the West Indies (UWI) to market the product worldwide with the assistance of Caribbean sports and entertainment icons pushing their own lines of fashion.
This was revealed Tuesday night by plant pathologist Professor Leonard O’Garro, of the Centre, which was the beneficiary of a 30-acre land gift at Dukes, St Thomas, by the Edghill family two years ago to address the lack of sound knowledge and proper training in the discipline of agriculture.
“We have joined with the cotton company here – the Exclusive Cottons Of The Caribbean Inc. – and we have embarked on a fairly large project, just under $11 million, and the idea is to really optimise all of the benefits from the sea island cotton.”
O’Garro was part of a panel discussion, Not Another Cane Blade: New Challenges To Food Security, sponsored by the Barbados Museum & Historical Society as the final event in the 2014 lecture series Big Grain Rice And Beyond: Feeding Barbados Yesterday And Today, at Queen’s Park Steel Shed.
Barbados is among top producers in the region of sea island cotton, which has been touted as the rarest cotton in the world, and the most expensive due to its quality, fibre length, strength and durability. However, for a very long time the island has been entrenched in a situation where it just produced the lint and sent it elsewhere to be finished.
“We are now trying to address that problem where we will provide a modern home for the cotton company,” said O’Garro. “Many of you know that in the cotton world the sea island cotton is the Rolls Royce of cotton, on the basis of some of its desirable market characteristics. We will provide all of the facilities, all of the equipment, all of the training, so that all of the skeining, weaving and so on will be done in Barbados.
“So we have already embarked on that and we have marketed it around the world, securing markets and to some of the Caribbean sporting and entertainment icons to be able to get them to be interested in their particular lines of fashion.”
O’Garro, a UWI-trained geneticist, said the focus of the Centre was to selectively take on projects of a “transformational nature” for the agricultural sector which would be assessed in terms of their contribution to the gross domestic product, direct foreign investment and the extent to which unemployment was being reduced.
“Essentially then, they are large multimillion projects and we hope that in this way we will be able to secure the necessary large-scale investment to have the sort of impact which I think every Barbadian wants for the agricultural sector,” O’Garro said.
He also disclosed that the Centre wanted to provide a home for the agro-processing sector with respect to fruits and vegetables, and negotiations were at an advanced stage for bringing in the investment to set up the facilities also on the land at Dukes.
“We are also hoping to find a home for the Black Belly Sheep project, ”O’Garro said. “The idea, in summary, is to select what we consider to be the iconic Barbadian products, things which we think are world beaters, well known, well recognised and trying to secure them in a way that brings maximum returns to Barbados.”