Bee-keepers seeking renewed buzz
February 18, 2014

Bee-keepers seeking renewed buzz

Local bee-keepers are looking to build on recent progress in the apiculture sector.

Close to 20 bee-keepers met at the Fisheries Division conference room on Monday, 3rd February, to plan the next step forward for the sector,{{more}} which is making inroads into the local, regional and international markets due to their diligence and perseverance.

The renewed focus directed at apiculture development commenced around 2006, when almost all the hives, except 24, were wiped out by a parasitic pest, the Verroa Mite. After regrouping, the beekeepers are now, from a dwindling number of less than 10 members, a 54-member strong group with a number of noteworthy accomplishments:

1. A newly registered and active association, the St Vincent and the Grenadines Bee-keepers Association, with accommodation at the local InterAmerican Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA)office, where regular meetings are planned. The association has adopted a logo and a website where its members are kept updated on events and activities, and link with other groups internationally.

2. Close association and networking with the Ministry of Agriculture and its collaborating agencies, such as IICA, Florida Association for Volunteer Action in the Caribbean and the Americas (FAVACA) and other apicultural organisations.

3. Recruitment into the industry of younger individuals who are provided with training and the proper nurturing to take up the mantle.

4. An increased annual production of organic honey, from zero (0) gallons in 2006 to 1,748 gallons in 2012 and another 1,154 gallons in 2013. Local honey returned to the supermarket shelves in 2007 and has since been in higher demand than the imported products.

5. A marked decrease in the importation of honey (imports went from EC126,000 in 2008 to EC$59,000 in 2012), and the beginning of the exportation of honey to Canada, Barbados and St Lucia, which has been highly rated for its quality and unique taste. The industry now has an estimated value of its product output of over EC$300 000.

These achievements were by no means an easy walkover as the bee-keepers were hindered by a number of setbacks:

1. Access to proper equipment that is affordable, as well as durable.

2. An increase or regular swarming of the bees, especially with the new strains that were imported.

3. The effects over the years of heavy rainfall, which affects the production of honey, as the bees forage less, producing less honey.

4. Difficulty in locating ideal sites for apiary establishment, mainly due to expansion into non-traditional areas for residential development.

Some of the plans for 2014 include the following:

1. Continued recruitment of new persons into the industry for sustainability of the industry as well as the increased production of honey.

2. Expansion of the export trade regionally and internationally.

3. Access to more affordable equipment and the possibility of using local material for hive construction.

4. Continued vigilance for the invasive species, such as the Africanized bee.

5. At least six sessions of workshops, demonstrations and training activities for all beekeepers.

6. Double the current number of commercial farmers from 10 to 20. Commercial farmers are those with more than 12 domestic colonies with the potential of over 30 gallons of honey per year.