Agriculture ministry, beekeepers join forces on upping honey production

The Ministry of Agriculture and local beekeepers are collaborating on adding honey production to the ever-widening diversification of the country’s agriculture sector.

Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud met beekeepers from around the country yesterday at the ministry’s boardroom and listened to their concerns with a view to crafting a National Work Plan for the sector and developing a number of areas aimed at realizing the full potential of the industry. He told them that government has realized the importance of collaboration in this regard and was willing to work with them to make the industry a thrifty one.

In this regard he outlined the ministry’s plans to focus on training of persons involved in bee husbandry, working with them to develop and utilize their facilities as regional demonstration sites and getting youths involved and developing skills in their area.

Persaud said currently there was just one person at the ministry, who deals with the extermination of bees. He said the ministry was forced to outsource this service and many times had to ask the beekeepers to assist.

However, the beekeepers urged the ministry to stop exterminating bees, which could cripple the industry. One keeper, said once he and other keepers were notified they would capture the bees and place them in hives. But he noted that once the situation was out of control and the need to exterminate the bees arose, then they acted appropriately.

Persaud said efforts were afoot to set up a unit at the ministry and requested that some of the stakeholders volunteer to work with the ministry in this regard. “We want you to work with us so we could effectively respond to calls, particularly where the bees have started to attack people in the communities,” Persaud said.

Part of the plans he said too was to facilitate linkages between the local beekeepers association and the Caribbean body.

Standards, Persaud said was another key issue, and the ministry would work with the Guyana National Bureau of Standards to come up with a list of accepted standards which stakeholders could work with.

A three-to-five-year strategic plan is also being eyed by the ministry as a road map for the sector. The minister said while the government was committed to supporting the industry the stakeholders had their role to play in assisting it to meet targets. Additionally, the minister also proposed to look into the Guyana School of Agriculture with a view to having beekeeping included in the curriculum, assisting the ministry’s focus on training.

Linden Stuart, who has been involved in beekeeping for a number of years lauded the effort by the ministry.

With a number of agreeing nods from across the room, Stuart asserted the need for the ministry to abolish the extermination of Africanized bees. “It makes no sense we establish the industry with any other species of commercial honey bees. The other bees provide honey yes, but only on a meagre scale,” Stuart said to applause from other beekeepers.

Stuart said he believed research was necessary in this regard, particularly with other species of bees, which were being reared in other neighbouring countries and could possibly be reared here as well. Stuart said his experience from attending several conferences in Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica was that those countries were more advanced. He noted that there was an extreme need for training for those involved in the profession locally.Like the other keepers, Stuart felt honey production in Guyana was way below its potential. He believes the rainforest is a possible area that could be used to rear bees.

Another beekeeper who operates from Rockstone in Region Ten said much more could be done in the industry in Guyana.

He recommended setting up a national beekeepers’ association as well as sub-associations in the different regions.

He said there should be a drive to encourage more persons to become involved in bee husbandry and pointed to the need for people to be sensitized about the profession.

Rupert Jones and Ann Green, beekeepers who ply their trade in Kuru Kururu on the Linden Soesdyke Highway expressed love for their profession and lauded the ministry’s efforts to put things in place where honey production was concerned. Jones said he and other keepers had tried to form an association but failed.

“So I hope this meeting with the minister would not just start and nothing would come out of it,” he said.

“We have the agricultural resources necessary and the people are interested. The problem is that we are just not organized and I have a problem with us still importing honey. We shouldn’t have to do that, we have the capabilities to fill our needs,” he added.

Green said she and her husband had started rearing bees on the West Bank Demerara and met serious challenges, since not only were they victims of theft but persons in the community frequently complained about their fear of the bees.

She suggested that some agreement be worked out where beekeepers who did not have appropriate places to put their hives, could be able to take them to an unpopulated location.

Guyana will host the Fifth Caribbean Congress of Beekeepers next year and in this vein the minister said the ministry would have to set up a national broad-based planning committee to ensure that the local industry benefits from the event and that local issues are reflected in the agenda.