Apiculture, the more technical term for beekeeping, is the maintenance of bee colonies, commonly in man-made hives.
The honey produced in the hives is harvested and used by various sectors including food and beverage, cosmetics and health and wellness. As a healthy alternative to sugar, honey is used by the health conscious; it is used in treatments from massages to facials and also additive to premium cosmetic brands.
The by-products of honey production are also very valuable. Apitoxins and bee-venom are used in the treatment of many nerve-borne illnesses; flower pollen and royal jelly are used by men as aphrodisiacs; beeswax is used a lot by cosmetologists.
In other words the apiary industry had great financial potential and Export Saint Lucia and the Ministry of Agriculture with assistance from Compete Caribbean have initiated a plan to develop and grow the industry.
In March 2019, Export Saint Lucia some regional Business Support Organizations (BSO’s) and private sector businesses were the beneficiaries of a Cluster Development Training Program by Compete Caribbean.
The training was designed to increase the capacity of the attendees towards the development of clusters in industries that showed the potential to benefit from clustering.
Subsequently, Compete Caribbean issued a call for proposals for Cluster Development Plans (CDP) that they would fund if successful.
Export Saint Lucia being the executing Agency coordinated the submission of two proposals with assistance from Ministry of Agriculture, SLBS, NCPC, IICA, SLCSI & Beekeepers Associations/Cooperatives, Cocoa Growers Association and OECS. The projects were evaluated by two Investment Panels who deliberated of which proposals should be funded.
Saint Lucia’s Bee City Cluster was successfully presented and defended by a representative from the Cluster Development Project committee and will receive funding to facilitate and execute the plans outlined in the afore-mentioned project.
At a recently convened presentation to stakeholders, a member of the project development team Ms. Yvonne Agard appraised attendees of the process involved in securing funding and plans/objectives articulated in the CDP.
Ms. Agard said that “honey was chosen because it is one of those products which is in great demand in the specialty food market. We went about developing the program, meeting all the conditions of the donor agency and it was accepted. Subsequently we had to defend the project in front of an international panel of judges and a couple of weeks later we got the go ahead.”
She also indicated that out of 7 regional projects, Saint Lucia’s Honey Cluster Development Plan was one of four which were successful in securing funding.
John Charlemagne, a beekeeper from the Horizon Brothers Honey Producers says he is excited about the project, particularly the implementation of standards for honey producers.
“We try to bring in an educational component, because it’s no longer an under the bush trade. It calls for proper knowledge and application of apiculture standards, to ensure that we have a product that is a proper representation of Saint Lucia. Doing this project in collaboration with various entities like the Saint Lucia Bureau of Standards and Export Saint Lucia we know that it will bring about success.”
Another critical component of the project is the implementation of a solid governance structure for the industry.
The Mille Fleurs Honey Producers’ Cooperative Society Ltd has been chosen to undertake this governance task. President of the Mille Fleurs Uraline Alphonse says she is excited about the plans moving forward.
“With the project we’re hoping to see Mille Fleurs as the structure for beekeepers, where they could come and get the necessary input and insight on their business. So, we’re using the cooperative to put everything in place to better facilitate the beekeepers.”
Export Saint Lucia CEO, Sunita Daniel said that “We welcomed this initiative as it provided invaluable capacity building for Saint Lucia. It also brought about funding which will assist in the development and growth of the Apiary Industry, a very potent industry, one which is growing globally, especially with the health conscious. Our desire is to increase production of high quality natural honey which is export ready and globally competitive. We are extremely thankful to all the stakeholders for their hard work and especially Compete Caribbean for this initiative.”
Beekeepers and cooperatives say they are eager to get the ball rolling on the implementation of the Cluster Development Project and thank the various agencies spearheading the initiative.
They say they look forward to the successes to be derived out of the project.