Jamaicans have been urged to temper their appetite for foreign-produced essential oils and to invest in local production to tap a global industry valued at US$8.8 billion and which is expected to exceed US$15 billion by 2027.
State Minister for Industry Dr Norman Dunn said that stimulating the local sector will reinvigorate rural, agriculture-based communities and spur employment, thus countering urban drift, which has caused farming regions to haemorrhage working-age youth.
Dunn chided Jamaicans for primarily being consumers of essential oils instead of being producers.
“In Jamaica, we import more than 80 per cent of the oils we import we use, and if you visit the pharmacies, you see a lot of these things, so why don’t we use what we have?” Dunn asked the audience at the opening of the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) essential oils incubator in Kingston on Friday.
The state minister said that increased demand for essential oils is being fuelled by a growing perception of the health benefits among global consumers.
He referenced a University of Maryland Medical Center study showing that some plant-derived essential oils have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. As a result, there is increased consumption in aromatherapy and other non-traditional medical practices for the treatment of anxiety, pain, insomnia, among other ailments. They are also considered to have fewer side effects than lab-produced pharmaceuticals.
It is projected that 4,500 people will be impacted by the end of the four-year cycle of the JBDC project, and farmers and other stakeholders along the value chain have been challenged to tap the opportunity to reap rich reward.
Pimento, turmeric, ginger, lemon grass (fever grass), castor are among the crops targeted for extraction in the first phase of the JBDC’s campaign, which is themed ‘Developing Rich Industry Value Chains for Export’, or DRIVE.
In blunt terms, Dunn called the industry “a good business decision for Jamaica”.
“In Jamaica we have the raw materials for the oils which are in high demand, and our ginger and black castor oil in particular are highly prized in the food and cosmetics industries overseas, so I, therefore, give this charge to all farmers to grow increased amounts of these crops from which these oils will be extracted for local use, and in particular, for export,” the minister said.
“There is a global demand for what we have right here, and we have taken so much for granted about this country and the natural resources that exist here, and we have always fallen short of monetising it to such an extent that we can make our people rich, make them prosperous. Therefore, this project is important in moving that conversation forward and for persons to have a direct link with the scientific extraction processes that allows for you to monetise what you have here.”
Meanwhile, in endorsing the incubator, Tanya Powell-Edwards, who markets Tayna’s Body Work line of skin and haircare products, said in five years of business, most of the essential oils used in her products have been imported from Brazil, India, and Africa. (Tanya’s brand is spelt Tayna.)
“That is why I am proud of what we are doing here today. I am ecstatic that we have reached the point that we have and now our farmers can plant their lemon grass, ginger, pimento, varieties of mint, turmeric, castor, and coconut, and we can now impact the local and international markets,” she said.