Sun | May 20, 2018

Sweet and central

Published:Thursday | December 16, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Smoking the bees from the comb. - Ian Allen/Staff Photographer

Rural Economic Development Initiative in support of honey production in central Jamaica

In keeping with Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries' strategy to stimulate rural economic growth and increase the nation's overall competitiveness, the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF)-implemented Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) aims to boost Jamaica's bee-keeping industry by funding honey production projects being undertaken by the Middlesex Bee-keepers Cooperative in St Elizabeth and the Porus Entrepreneurial Group (PEG) in Man-chester. The groups intend to expand their product offerings through the production of value added goods such as pollen, honey wine, cosmetics and wax-based products, subsequently creating economic and employment opportunities in the parishes.

According to Stephanie Hutchinson-Ffrench, the REDI project manager, "If Jamaica is to advance in keeping with the goal of the Vision 2030 National Development Plan, the development of rural areas must at least keep pace with development in urban areas."

This venture represents the first two Type A subprojects to be implemented by the REDI project. With a total investment of $8,804,474, the potential for rural growth and development will be significantly enhanced. The local and international markets for honey are growing considerably as consumers are becoming more health conscious. Based on the findings contained in a business plan prepared by the JSIF for this project, the earning potential of the Middlesex Bee-keepers Group (MBG) alone is set to move from $4.736 million in year 1 to $5.233 million in year 3 and $6.111 million in year 5. The inability of both entities to increase supply to meet domestic and international demand for honey limits their income potential.

Hope renewed

For the members of the MBG and the PEG, the Rural Economic Development Initiative represents hope renewed and a critical step to accomplishing the entities' objectives of significantly increasing production and become internationally competitive. The signing of the financing agreement signals an important step in the joint venture between the JSIF, the MBG and PEG. Jamaica has the distinction of being on the list of countries approved to export honey into the European Union where there is a strong demand for the natural sweetener and the market is able to absorb all that we currently produce. Jamaican honey is renowned for its high quality and unique flavour as the indigenous herbs that the bees draw from and put into their honey makes it distinct from honey produced in other parts of the world. Honey is currently the main hive product in Jamaica and even with expanding production, demand outstrips supply.

By the terms of the agreement, both the Middlesex Bee-keepers Group and the Porus Entrepre-neurial Group will expand their product offerings through production of value added goods such as pollen, honey wine, cosmetics and wax-based products in the medium term. More specifically, the venture will involve the supply of bee-keeping equipment, honey extraction equipment as well as storage facility and promotional activities to increase awareness of the 'PEG Power' brand and aid in a more organised approach to the marketing of the product. As it relates to the MBG, the project will be implemented on a phased basis. The first phase will involve the supply of bee-keeping and honey extraction equipment and the second phase will involve infrastructural improvement to an existing building to facilitate the equipping and set up of a honey-processing (extracting, bottling, labelling) facility. This investment will assist the MBG to meet its objective of increasing production of honey to in excess of 3,800kg annually. Both groups will also receive organisational strengthening and capacity-building training from the JSIF.

Through its partnership with the MBC and the PEG, the JSIF intends to encourage growth in bee farming as small business industries, such as honey farming, are set to become a driving force in the rebuilding of the Jamaican economy.