The Government is exploring a new agricultural frontier in apiculture.
The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA), Embassy of Argentina, Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and the Barbados Apiculture Association (BAA) launched ApiCaribe, the IICA/Argentina Regional Cooperation Project on Apiculture on Monday.
The project seeks to educate local beekeepers and stakeholders on the wholesale production and exportation of honey. Fifty members of the Barbados Beekeepers Association will participate in the project which includes a series of training workshops by experts Liliana Gallez and Elian Tourn from Argentina, the world’s third largest organic honey exporter.
Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Indar Weir revealed that given Barbados’ importation bill of $1.4 million in honey annually, the expansion of the local honey production sector was timely. Local beekeeping and honey production have been on the rise, with approximately 675 hives in existence and 8, 800 kilogrammes of honey being produced. However, Weir said there was more to be done.
“We have had a history where we have fallen short of taking the value chain and I always reference the sugar cane industry where we only produced sugar and then allowed someone else to take the full value chain out of it. Those days are behind us now, where we will go by the full value chain, where we get the keepers, the production of honey, the production of all the byproducts,” he expressed.
The Minister of Agriculture shared that Barbados Agriculture and Development Marketing Corporation (BADMC) Carmeta’s plans to launch a line of Barbadian honey that will be exported.
He indicated that the success of the ApiCaribe project depends on informing Barbadians of the socio-economic advantages of apiculture and also reminding them that bees were not dangerous.
“If we are to be successful with this project, we must make sure that we get Barbadians on board and help them to overcome the fear that they have of bees. Bees are indeed not harmful but they are protective of their territory… but other than that, they are absolutely useful. They are not harmful and people do not have to see them as dangerous,” he advised.
Weir also disclosed that apiculture will be one of the components of the Farmers Empowerment and Enfranchisement Drive (FEED) programme where young people, especially females, can be trained on honey production and create their own beekeeping businesses or honey byproducts.
Also speaking at the launch, head of the BAA Damian Hinds lauded the project. He stated that Barbadian honey was one of the industry’s greatest secrets and voiced that local producers needed to be further educated on the production and promotion of their products for the global market.
Meanwhile, IICA representative Ena Harvey reminded that there was endless potential for apiculture not only in agriculture but also agrotourism.
“Slovenia is the benchmark for api-tourism in the world. We should be looking to see how we can use our experiences in Latin America and the Caribbean in agrotourism and tourism overall and bring the best practices to make api-tourism come alive, have a new product and event and attraction, not just here in Barbados but in the region,” she added. (KK)