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May 18, 2023

Bamboo: A New Growth Industry to Replace Citrus?

The citrus industry is all but defunct and stakeholders are now seeking alternative crops to grow on vast acreages that were in use for the cultivation of oranges.  In tonight’s episode of Belize on Reel, News Five’s Isani Cayetano traveled down to Hope Creek where he visited Agricultural Development Services, a business that is expanding to include bamboo cultivation.  Here’s that story.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

A change from oranges, limes and grapefruits, for citrus farmers in the Stann Creek Valley, is inevitable.  A thriving industry that was once the lifeblood of the south is now a shell of its former self.  Stakeholders are forced to expand into new areas of business if they are to remain competitive in agriculture.


Henry Canton

Dr. Henry Canton, Chairman, Agricultural Development Services

“The concept of bamboo came about after looking at all different potential industries that could replace the outgoing citrus industry and the possibility of an outgoing banana industry and what best would fit in this area that is almost wholly dependent on those industries.”


Dr. Henry Canton is the former CEO of Citrus Products of Belize Ltd.  As a grower, he was also heavily invested in the industry.  Over the years, Canton has witnessed a steady decline in the profitability of citrus and, observing the writings on the wall, he was among the first to explore other possibilities.


Dr. Henry Canton

“We realized that bamboo is a natural fit for Belize for many, many reasons being that it grows naturally. As you see along all the riversides, the river moisture is,  the variety that we need is naturally here, so it is indigenous to our area already.  It’s non-invasive.  It is a grass which lends to a much larger carbon footprint and carbon sequestration process.  It is not highly intensive in regards to the agricultural requirements after it’s planted and when you look at the actual economic returns on it, it’s not bad.”


Leading the charge for diversification, Canton has assembled a team of agronomists, including a husband and wife couple.  Together, they are looking at the viability of bamboo as a new growth industry in southern Belize.  Amelio Chi spent ten years in the sugar industry before coming onboard with this initiative.


Amelio Chi

Amelio Chi, Agronomist, BASGroup

“Unlike sugarcane, it’s harvesting window for bamboo is a bit bigger, compared to sugarcane.  So, there’s a benefit on that side because you know up in the north we suffer a lot because of the rainy season within the dry period.  So unlike sugarcane, bamboo has that benefit that it offers you a bigger window for harvesting.”


Bamboos include some of the fastest-growing plants in the world, due to a unique rhizome-dependent system.  Certain species can grow as much as thirty-six inches within a twenty-four hour period.


Heidi Teck

Heidi Teck, Agronomist, Agricultural Development Services

“We are not looking to clear any forest, any virgin forest for us to do this expansion.  We are looking at using lands that have previously been cleared for agriculture use, lands that have been used, maybe for citrus, bananas or any other crop that has been tried in the area that has not worked.”


This rapid growth and tolerance for marginal land, make bamboo a good candidate for establishing a stand of trees where there was no recent tree cover, storing carbon in a carbon pool, as well as climate change mitigation.  According to Canton, the economic returns on bamboo are tremendous.


Dr. Henry Canton

“It’s probably, in my umpteen years in citrus, I would say that it’s comparable if not better than citrus and I know that it’s comparable if not much much better than sugar and maybe where banana is at this point in time because banana prices have come down successively.  So, we, as a group, believe that it’s the proper fit for the country and for the area and for the economics of the area and the country.”


Prime Minister John Briceño met with Canton and several investors recently, to discuss the viability of a bamboo industry in Belize.  Government has since given its stamp of approval for the project.


Dr. Henry Canton

“Government is very, very receptive.  We’ve met, our first meeting initially was with [the ministries of] Agriculture, New Growth [Industries], Finance.  We met with the prime minister then also individually and we got tremendous, tremendous support, in particular from [the Ministry of] Investment, Mrs. Narda Garcia, CEO.  This visit that we had, we met with [the Ministry of] Environment because we wanted to, having passed the environmental permitting in Jamaica, we wanted to find out what are the next best steps and how do we proceed.  And I must say that Minister Habet and Mr. Kenrick Gordon, his environmental officer, was extremely helpful and guiding us along the way.”


Isani Cayetano for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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