Govt agencies seeking to increase Cascarilla plant’s economic value

A team of agencies focused on increasing the yield and economic value of Cascarilla hope to increase the sale value of the endemic plant 100 times the amount Bahamians who sell its bark receive on the market today, strategic development consultant with the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources Garnell Pelecanos said yesterday at a press conference hosted by the ministry.

The press conference was organized to introduce a video on Cascarilla production in The Bahamas. Pelecanos revealed that raw Cascarilla bark is sold to brokers across the world for about $5 per pound. She and other stakeholders at the press conference contended that while this trade has benefited companies which use extracts from the bark in their spirits, it has not significantly benefited the jurisdiction where the bark is harvested.

Pelecanos said a new cooperative formed in Acklins and Crooked Island hopes to extract the Cascarilla oil and send it to the market, demanding significantly higher prices per ounce than the bark. 

“There are many opportunities for spin-offs and derivatives of Cascarilla,” said Pelecanos. “The main product is Cascarilla oil for the perfume industry, which retails per ounce at a very significant amount, more than 100 times what is gotten from the bark.”

The initiative is being organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources, the Bahamas Agriculture and Industrial Corporation (BAIC), the Department of Forestry, the Department of Cooperatives, the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection (DEPP), Bahamas Development Bank, Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute, the Acklins Islanders Cooperative Society and the Caribbean Agriculture and Research Development Institute (CARDI).

CARDI country representative for The Bahamas Dr. Michelle Singh said during the press conference that there is no relationship between those who carry out the labor intensive harvesting of Cascarilla bark and the companies that profit from its end use.

“At this time there is no real value addition that accrues any economic benefit to The Bahamas,” said Singh.

“All of that dry bark, the raw material, is exported out of the country and it’s utilized in a number of industries. So right now there is no relationship between dry bark and the natives of The Bahamas.

“This project hopes to change that and create wealth in the islands of Acklins and Crooked Island.” 

So far $1.41 million has been pumped into the Cascarilla industrialization initiative from institutions like the Global Environment facility ($422,000), the Bahamas government ($200,000) and in-kind contributions from other stakeholder agencies ($792,000).

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources’ press statement released yesterday, the Office of the Prime Minister has approved 105 acres of Crown land for a Cascarilla plantation and a processing plant.

The BDB, according to the statement, will provide funding for a manufacturing plant for the cooperative to produce its oil.

“This is a multi-agency initiative with national implications,” the statement revealed.

“This project has the capacity to be a game changer for the lives of the people of Acklins and Crooked Island. The business goal of this initiative is to supply Cascarilla oil as a base for the perfume and medicine industries.”

Pelecanos said while Cascarilla bark producers will be able to continue to sell to on their own, the cooperative will offer a higher price to those already in the industry in order to maximize the economic benefit to the Cascarilla producers and the country.

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Chester Robards

Chester Robards rejoined The Nassau Guardian in November 2017 as a senior business reporter. He has covered myriad topics and events for The Nassau Guardian. Education: Florida International University, BS in Journalism

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