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EAC eyes lucrative trade in bamboo



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East Africa is considering taking up bamboo farming, joining Asia-Pacific countries which currently earn the lion’s share of revenues from the trade, thanks to their industries spanning a vast range of applications from paper making to scaffolding and luxury flooring and foods.

The Sectoral Council on Agriculture and Food Security (SCAFS) now wants the EAC partner states to conduct research to unlock the potential of bamboo for generating wealth in the region.

Bamboo, dubbed the wonder plant, is not only the strongest and fastest-growing wood plant on earth, but also supplies $7 billion worth of trade globally each year.

At its just ended meeting in Arusha, SCAFS urged the EAC member countries to protect water bodies by creating buffer zones planted with bamboos, documenting best practices and sharing lessons based on success stories from elsewhere.

The SCAFS resolution was prompted by a report by the EAC on the 2018 Training in Bamboo Technologies for Belt and Road Countries, which took place between April and June in Hangzhou, China.

The training, which was sponsored by the Ministry of Commerce of China and organised by China National Bamboo Research Centre (CBRC), drew participants from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Thailand, Timor East, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and the EAC Secretariat.

In their report, participants from the EAC bloc proposed undertaking a survey to understand species available that can be promoted for food security and commercial purposes.

They also proposed that success stories on different uses of bamboos as food and cash crop in East Africa be documented and that research centres ensure bamboo seedlings are available at affordable prices to potential farmers.

London-based Future Market Insights projects that over 63 million tonnes of bamboo will be sold across the globe by 2027, bringing in revenues worth over $10 billion.

The export of bamboo flooring from China to the world accounted for about 90 per cent of total trade in 2012.

Of the $7 billion per year bamboo world market, China commands a $5.5 billion share.

“Domesticating and promoting bamboo production will raise awareness on how we can efficiently tap into the huge potential offered by the crop,” SCAFS said in a report on its 12th meeting held in Arusha early this month.

Societies in the Asia-Pacific region consider bamboo a viable replacement for wood and industrial raw materials.

Various industrial applications of the crop in the region include food production, wood substitute, pulp and paper, handicrafts, cottage industries and charcoal production.

Besides making green tea, bamboo leaves in Asia-Pacific are used in medicine and beverages and the cosmetics industries, as they contain flavonoids — a colourless crystalline compound that is the basis of a number of white or yellow plant pigments.

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