With more than 60 per cent of the honey imports into the Caribbean coming to Barbados, it is believed that this country is poised to develop a honey industry.
That’s according to Damien Hinds, Vice-President of the Barbados Apiculture Association and National Programme Technical Officer with the Inter-American Institute for
Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA). He explained that the reason why Barbados imports so much more honey than the rest of the region, including Cuba, is that the other islands have quite substantial levels of local production, which he noted is quite unlike the experience in Barbados.
Hinds explained that in 2014, Barbados imported 98 320 kilograms (kg) of honey, which accounted for 45 per cent of the total honey imports for CARICOM. That honey, he indicated, cost US$364 337, 63 per cent of the total cost of the honey imports for CARICOM. He said by 2015 this country imported 118 619 kg of honey, 20 per cent more than the previous year. He revealed that the value of honey imported in 2015 was US$402 822, an increase of 11 per cent over 2014.
“This growing demand speaks to the potential for honey production in Barbados. You can see from the supermarket shelves that the honey is from half dozen to a dozen countries, and that is at a rate of almost half a million US dollars annually. So there is quite a bit of scope for us to actually tap into what we currently spend on honey outside of these shores. This is something that we at the Barbados Apiculture Association are trying to address,” the Vice-President stated.
To increase local honey production, Hinds said the bee population has to increase. He indicated that a 2015 survey, which was the last survey conducted on the sector, in-dicated there were 500 commercial hives on the island. That number, he suggested, is probably closer to 600 now, given the work IICA and the Association has been doing. Additionally, he said it is difficult to estimate, but they suspect there are possibly ten to 20 times more wild hives than what has been developed for commercial purposes.
“Bees provide a myriad of services, pollination being the greatest one and we are looking at introducing them on a number of the local fruit and vegetable farms to assist the farmers with their production. A second aspect of our work to boost the numbers is to allay the public’s fears about bees, so they do not destroy the bees because that would definitely set us back in terms of what we are trying to do – getting more honey, getting more bees and getting more pollination going on the island,” he stated.
Even more, he said, it is important that those wanting to get into beekeeping know exactly what it entails, so that they do not become frustrated and lose their investment. As such, he said the idea is to train people so they can successfully run operations on their own. Should Barbados significantly boost its honey production, Hinds said in addition to saving a lot of foreign exchange, it could also be a significant source of employment.
“It is what I consider to be a pretty straight-forward solution to some of the unemployment challenges we have in Barbados, because beekeeping is not a difficult exercise. If you are looking at $20 a pound for honey, considering that in three to six months after developing a hive you can get 40 pounds of honey from one harvest and successive harvests after that will come at a shorter duration, it is something that can be quite lucrative for people who are challenged in finding jobs at this time,” he stated. (JRT)