John Myers Jr/Rasbert Turner, Gleaner Writers
Loren Allen, a bee farmer in Longwood district, St. Elizabeth, removes the honeycomb from the hive before extracting honey. - IAN ALLEN/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
THE MINISTRY of Agri-culture is moving to increase honey production to meet the increasing demand for local honey on the interna-tional market.
The ministry, through its Apiculture Unit, has been actively recruiting and training farmers in bee keeping and husbandry islandwide to meet this demand. The first batch of 28 young farmers graduated from the Bodles Research Centre in Old Harbour, St. Catherine on April 6. This was done at a cost of $2.1 million.
The 28 farmers were also given a grant of $71,000 each to assist with purchasing equipment for their farm. "This initiative falls under the umbrella of the Ministry's Agricultural Development Strategy which seeks to train unemployed young people from rural communities in marketable agricultural skills in order that they may achieve economic sustainability," Agricul-ture and Land Minister Roger Clarke said. The bee-keeping industry is one of eight priority areas identified by the ministry for development to generate employment and export earnings under the Agricultural Develop-ment Strategy.
So far a total of $4.1 million has been spent out of the $30 million that has been allocated for the development of the bee-keeping industry.
Reginald Peddy, chief apiculture officer in the Ministry's Apiculture Unit, said there is also a revolving loan programme that is available to existing bee farmers who want to improve and expand honey production. He said loans are awarded based on the farmers' location, size of current operation, ability to adapt to training and to meet prescribed production targets.
Statistics from the Ministry's Data Bank and Evaluation Division show that honey production grew from 102,000 pounds in 1997 to 135,000 pounds in 2005. Data from the data bank also showed that honey production per hive increased from 3.2 gallons in 1997 to 7.5 gallons in 2005.
Mr. Clarke credits this improvement on the Apiculture Unit's involve-ment in training farmers to adapting to modern technology, research and pest management.
Winfield Murray, president of the All-Island Bee Farmers Association (AIBFA) said "based on the local and international demand for Jamaican honey,the bee industry has the potential to be a 'gold mine'. "
He said there have been enquiries from the European Union (EU) to supply the equivalent of two 40 feet containers of honey per month. Unfortunately, he said this could not be met. He said at least two other companies out of Europe have expressed an interest in purchasing Jamaican honey.
Mr. Murray said there is the potential to develop value-added products, such as candles, hair oil, body lotion, bath gel, bee wax, bee pollen, propolis, royal jelly, gift packaging, from the bee industry.
He noted that the potential for the development of value-added products provides the oppor-tunity for the generation of significant income for the small, medium and large farmers.
All Island Bee Farmers Association five-year projection
In recognising the potential for the development and projected earnings of the bee-keeping industry, the All Island Bee Farmers Association (AIBFA) is aiming in the next five years to:
increase the number of bee farmers by 50 per cent
increase the number of bee colonies by 75 per cent
increase honey yields to between eight and twelve gallons per colony per year.
have at least 20 bee farmers producing pollen at a commercial level
have at least five bee farmers producing propolis at a commercial level
have at least 10 bee farmers producing bee wax at a commercial level
have at least five enterprises producing value-added honey products at a commercial level.
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