The Jamaica Social Investment Fund, JSIF, will spend some $20 million on the renovation of a Hanover honey- bottling plant that is expected to aid more than 200 bee farmers in the western parishes.
The project is being carried out under the Rural Economic Development Initiative programme, otherwise known as REDI II, and is being funded through a loan from the World Bank.
The JSIF has invited bids for the rehabilitation contract, which includes the retrofitting of two 40-foot cargo containers for storage of processed bottle honey, the installation of a fire alarm system, the upgrading of the facility’s air conditioning and ventilation system, and installing a solar energy system.
Bidding will close on 13 and the job is projected to last for four to six months.
The honey-bottling plant is operated by the Hanover Bee Farmers’ Cooperative. Its supplied with honey by bee farmers from Hanover and connecting parishes, including St Elizabeth and Trelawny.
The plant, which is located at the same complex housing the local office of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, was constructed in 2010 at a cost of $27 million under the initial REDI I programme.
“We developed a number of agro-processing facilities at the parish RADA offices. We did processing facilities in Westmoreland, St Elizabeth, St Catherine, St James, Trelawny, and Hanover in the first programme. Those facilities were multipurpose, so they can jams, jellies, honey, etc. But in the case of Hanover, the facility was focused on honey bottling,” Managing Director of the JSIF Omar Sweeney told the Financial Gleaner.
Sweeney said the developments were structured around providing access to suitable workspaces and equipment for farmers in the parishes at affordable rates.
The REDI programme’s objective is to create economic opportunities in the agriculture- and tourism-market segment. The benefits include but aren’t limited to enhanced agriculture and tourism linkages, optimised rural agriculture production, improving productivity, enhanced business mentorship and coaching, and increased employment, specifically targeting youth.
In addition to the renovation of the Hanover honey plant, other targets under the REDI II programme for this fiscal year include the rehabilitation of the St Mary Multipurpose Cooperative Society cold-storage facility and advancing the REDI II Agro-Invest Corporation’s irrigation programme.
“The apiculture industry, or beekeeping as it’s commonly known, is a fast-growing industry, but the standards by which these beekeepers handle or package their products is unknown, and so it is very important that farmers have access to such a facility,” Sweeney said.
“The facilities were built at the RADA office because that’s the best way to ensure that safety and security. But they are all in centralised locations so farmers can go there and get access to the equipment and storage space,” he said.
Jamaica has a growing beekeeping industry, with over 67,000 colonies managed by more than 3,500 beekeepers, and is recognised as the main producer of honey in the English-speaking Caribbean.
The Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries values Jamaica’s apiculture industry at $2 billion, while investment promotions agency Jampro puts the return on investment at 23 per cent.
The agriculture ministry has its own initiatives to protect and safeguard the national honeybee stock, which is integral in the production of several hive products such as honey, pollen, royal jelly, beeswax, propolis, and venom.
Last year, State Minister Franklin Witter announced that the beekeeping industry would receive a subsidy of $10 million for the purchasing of sugar as feed for their bee colonies. The subsidy was a 100 per cent increase over the prior year’s allocation.
Distribution of the bee-feeding grant was targeted for periods when there is a reduction in nectar-producing plants. Additionally, 2,050 saplings of fruit trees were sourced and distributed to various beekeeper associations for planting.