Teak timber set back by winds
As the country grapples with the $1.43 billion damage to the agricultural sector, Jamaica's little known teak forest industry has added its losses to the toll.
With an estimated $20 million already invested in the fledgling industry, the sector's mostly private investors have recorded significant losses to their current seven-year-old crop of trees.
"Most of the trees were doing quite well and about to be thinned when Hurricane Sandy struck" said director of Forest Conservancy (TFC), Guy Symes.
The thirteen-acre, St Mary farm was devastated while the 25 acre Grier Farm in St Ann would have reaped close to $9 million from the crops that were damaged he said.
The thinning process he explained, essentially means discarding small vulnerable plants.
He said the fallen trees would have to be salvaged to prevent the breeding of insects and fungal diseases, which could endanger the remaining trees.
"We will have to find a market for the immature wood and use the returns to maintain the surviving trees."
The mostly private investors will have to bear all costs associated with the restoration of the farms Symes said as there is currently no insurance scheme to cover their losses.
Symes, while lamenting the loss, described the teak industry as viable source of income generation and employment creation.
"Aside from to obvious financial benefits, the trees offer tremendous ecological advantages. They mitigate climate change and reduce soil erosion."
He called for greater investment and assistance for the sector. "Aside from a few grants and the large sums channelled by the private investors not much else is forthcoming and this industry is a gold mine waiting to be tapped" he said.
Teak farming by private landowners has been promoted by TFC, a non-government, and charitable organization formed in 2003 to encourage forest plantation development as an option for idle and underused lands.
Teak is known for its pest resistant qualities Symes said. The yellowish brown timber is highly suitable for the manufacturing of outdoor furniture, boat decks, indoor flooring, countertops and cutting boards.
According to Symes, some 110 acres have been planted by individuals and communities throughout the parishes of Portland, St Mary, Westmoreland, St Ann, Trelawny and St Andrew.