–to help budding sector develop competitive edge
AGRICULTURE Minister Noel Holder has called on the relevant local agencies to join forces in pushing apiculture so as to boost the country’s budding beekeeping industry.
He made the call on Monday when he declared open the ninth Caribbean Beekeeping Congress at the Guyana School of Agriculture, Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara, where beekeepers from all across the Caribbean were gathered for the three-day meet.
While the fifth congress was held in Guyana, the others have been kept in various Caribbean destinations over the years, and is being held this time around under the theme, “Natural Beekeeping for a Green Caribbean”.
The event offers an opportunity for knowledge sharing; insights into introductory programmes for new beekeepers; sessions on honey standards; trade and honey risks for professional beekeepers; and using social media as a marketing tool to build new brands and communicating with customers.
According to the minister, support within this sector is crucial for it to become competitive against foreign imports and the promotion of exports. Hence, the Guyana Livestock and Development Authority (GLDA) and Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) have been working assiduously to support the industry.
“Support has, and will continue to be focused on helping beekeepers improve supply and yields while maintaining the quality of honey,” Minister Holder said.
“The quality of our honey is an important factor in maintaining a comparative advantage over foreign honey imports, while at the same time sustaining our competitiveness. The role of the government is to provide an enabling and supportive environment for the success of the industry,” he added.
While the local honey industry is considered to be a small-scale developing industry, the minister said bee legislation and honey regulation are basic necessities for it to be expanded.
“This is especially important,” he said, “as we aspire to export to high-value markets such as the European Union. However, these often remain out of reach due to the complex import regulations and processing standards for natural products. The GLDA and GAS (Guyana Apiculture Society) should join forces to push this initiative.”
The apiculture unit of the GLDA has been focused on training potential beekeepers, promoting beekeeping in schools with focus on the hinterland regions, and providing technical support through improved extension services to beekeepers.
The GLDA is also assisting in providing necessary inputs in the production process, which will be done via the establishment of a facility at the GLDA headquarters at Mon Repos to assist in the production and processing of wax for box foundation mold, and a honey extraction room for beekeepers.
The GLDA also has beekeeping officers across the country promoting the development of the sub-sector. “So far in 2018, the GLDA has trained 200 persons. By promoting beekeeping as a viable source of income, it can add additional income and be a main income source for persons in rural communities,” the minister noted.
While the Caribbean produces only about one per cent of global honey, its tropical climate provides a variety of nectar sources ideal for honey production, and hence, Minister Holder observed that there is great potential for the production and trade of honey within the Region.
According to him, honey imported into Guyana in 2017 was approximately 28,000kg valued at US$71,877. “There is therefore an opportunity for local beekeepers to tap into this market to achieve national self-sufficiency, and thereafter exploit our export potential for this commodity,” the minister said.
“Apiculture’s role in diversified production with minimum investment is significant; it is also a means to address food insecurity and youth unemployment, as well as increased incomes and economic growth.
“I propose we start with streamlining the bee legislation and honey regulations for each of our countries. I’m sure as we return to our respective countries, we will be able to find the inspiration and learn from best practices shared during the congress,” he added.
Ministry of Business Economist Safrana Cameron observed that a number of challenges have hindered the growth of the beekeeping sector in Guyana.
She referred to those having to do with exporting, access to land and financing. These have discouraged persons and have made them reluctant to learn the trade.
The three-day congress, however, is expected to bring these and other challenges to light, so that the government will be in a better position to understand them and provide the necessary help, she noted.
According to Cameron, Guyana imports more honey than it exports. Additionally, what is being produced locally does not match the demand that the country has.
She further noted that since Guyana possesses land, flora, and experience and knowledge in beekeeping, there are lots of business opportunities available.
The Ministry of Business, she said, has been working with the Legal Affairs Ministry to put certain arrangements in place to make things easier on beekeepers.
Executive Director of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce (GCCI), Richard Rambarran, promised “foot-to-foot” support of the beekeepers, and said the congress is timely. He added that the GCCI remains fully supportive of the industry and said he wished to “humbly” suggest that the government give more support to the apiary industry.
Others who made presentations during the opening of the congress includes Gladstone Solomon from the Association of Caribbean Beekeepers’ Organisations (ACBO); Dexter Lyken from the GLDA; and IICA Representative Wilmot Garnett.
IICA has been a longstanding partner of the beekeeping congress, and one of its major sponsors.