Pioneer bamboo producers in Mexico are hoping to turn the tables on China and become one of the world’s largest producers of bamboo. Although the fact is not widely known, bamboo is actually a grass, which has long grown wild throughout many parts of Mexico.
Bamboo is a versatile fiber that can be used in paper, clothing, as fuel, and even in the manufacture of musical instruments. People also eat bamboo. Preserved bamboo shoots are imported from China in jars and cans.
Bamboo is also widely used in construction. The shoots, or perhaps more accurately timbers, can grow up to 100 feet tall and are considered as strong as steel, yet more flexible. In the Mexican state of Veracruz, bamboo is used to build low-income housing at about one-third the cost of conventional construction.
Considered an environmentally friendly product, bamboo conserves water and prevents erosion. It grows quickly in a wide variety of climates and can be used easily in reforestation efforts.
Currently, China produces half of the bamboo sold on the global market, which experts estimate at $10 billion annually. That figure is expected to double in the next 10 years.
It takes about three years for a farmer to develop a productive bamboo plantation. To jump-start production, a private group in Veracruz, Bambuver, is promoting the bamboo industry and actively teaching people how to grow it, process it, and profit from it.
Importing bamboo from Mexico would be quicker and cheaper for both the United States and Europe. In fact, fresh bamboo shoots could be sent to market, rather than processed and preserved ones.
Creating a bamboo industry in Mexico will take time and education, but profits are nearly guaranteed according to the Bambuver group. Land that appears useless for other crops could be turned to bamboo production.
One elderly coffee grower has long known the profitable side of bamboo. He has surrounded his organic coffee plot with the type of bamboo used in scaffolding and supplements his income while providing shade for his coffee.