DELORY 'ORONDE' MCNISH, president of the St Thomas Bee Farmers' Association, is concerned that the severe wax shortage has led to the establishment of another industry, which could have serious environmental impact in the long run.
"People have become creative, and started to use plastic to make both frames and foundations (for apiaries). So they are sidestepping the natural process of using wax as foundation, and we want to get back in there, because once you use plastic, somehow it's gonna end up in the environment."
McNish explains his fear for the environmental fallout: "In beekeeping, because of the incidents of foul brood, one of the more serious diseases that we have, once your box is infested with foul brood, you're going to have to burn it. That plastic frame and foundation and its elements are going to end up in the atmosphere, or it's going to be dumped somewhere and become a problem in the environment. So we are trying to maintain the old order, and the natural way of things, and to keep the industry pure."
In the 30 years he has been involved in beekeeping, McNish said the industry has never been able to meet the demand for honey, its primary product, much less wax. Now, with the help of the Local Initiative Facility for the Environment (LIFE), his organisation is looking to set up Jamaica's first apiary dedicated to beeswax production as the primary product, in keeping with a drive to rev up the value-added chain.
REACHING NEXT LEVEL
"We have started doing some work because we need to take beekeeping to another level. So one of the approaches that we are taking in the association is to look at anything from the bee as raw material, and to see how we can use these to make value-added products. So if you are looking at wax as raw material, then you can look at hair oil, body butter, lip balm, scented candles, and you have so many other things that we can do with it."
In addition to the establishing of the wax apiary and compiling a manual on best practices, under the agreement between LIFE and the All-Island Bee Farmers' Association and Jamaica Federation of Commercial Apiculturists, some 135 beekeepers will be trained, with 102 of them involved in pollen production. It is projected that some 9,000 pounds of pollen and 137,600 gallons of honey will be packaged in upgraded plants per annum.