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British High Commish impressed by UWI’s pioneering castor bean research

Judith Slather, British High Commissioner to Jamaica, is pleased with groundbreaking castor bean research under way at the Mona Institute of Applied Sciences (MIAS) at the Faculty of Science and Technology, The UWI, Mona.

The high commissioner visited the institute on Monday to see firsthand the groundbreaking work funded by the Compete Caribbean Partnership Facility (CCPF). She was joined by Malcolm Geere, development director, Caribbean, United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), and Lorcan O’Brien, Caribbean Trade for Development Advisor, also from FCDO.

The British delegation showed keen interest in the project updates provided by The UWI’s Dr Howard Reid, principal investigator; Shirley Lindo-Thompson, community liaison officer; and Akeem Robinson, project development officer on the first leg of the tour. The delegation went on to examine various types of castor beans, and were guided through the various stages of production at the lab. They even took a hands-on approach, participating in the preparation of the institute’s ‘liquid gold’ – Jamaican Black Castor Oil (JBCO).

This research focuses on establishing definitive standards for JBCO, setting it apart from competitors. A key objective is obtaining a geographic indication (GI) and certification marks. This GI designation will safeguard the JBCO name, preventing non-Jamaican producers from capitalising on its reputation and market potential.

Following the tour, the high commissioner expressed her satisfaction with the ongoing work. “We are delighted to be here,” Slater said, adding that the castor bean project “is one of the crown jewels” of the CCPF.

For his part, Dr Reid noted that the development of standards and IP protection will allow for an orderly and profitable development of the Jamaican castor industry, primarily JBCO and cold press castor oil. “Jamaica has a great brand,” he told the British delegation.

“So, if we’re putting standards in branding, it opens up more things for the Jamaican producers (and) the physical and chemical parameters for the proposed Jamaican Cold Pressed Castor Oil standard has already been completed in this study, and it’s one of the reports that we’ve already sent in,” he added.

Work is currently being completed on the proposed biological, physical and chemical parameters for JBCO.

Dr Reid, who is also the director of the Mona Institute of Applied Sciences, leads a team dedicated to establishing a robust Jamaican castor oil industry. This initiative targets a significant portion of the estimated US$300 million global market for JBCO, where Jamaica currently earns less than US$5 million. To maximise Jamaica’s share, The UWI researchers are collaborating with key stakeholders like the Bureau of Standards Jamaica, the Jamaica Baptist Union Grow Castor Bean Cluster Project, and the Jamaica Castor Industry Association.

Photo caption: From left: Shirley Lindo-Thompson, community liaison officer; Akeem Robinson, project development officer; Dr Howard Reid, director, Mona Institute of Applied Sciences (MIAS); Judith Slater, British High Commissioner to Jamaica; Malcolm Geere, development director, Caribbean; Lorcan O’Brien, Caribbean Trade for Development advisor; Kishawni Black, project officer; and Romario Smith, project officer.

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Published on 20 May, 2024

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