More locally produced Italian variety of bees is being made available in the market thanks to a Gene Pool Improvement program by the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA).

Agricultural Technical Officer (Bees) Asween Kumar said the demand for locally produced Italian bees is always high.

He said farmers usually opt to import these Italian bees when it is not available at the research stations but importation comes in with high risks.

“When live bees are imported, there are high chances of pests and diseases coming with it into the country which may have a great impact on our bee industry.”

Under the Gene Pool Improvement program, about $15,000 is being utilised to produce more Italian Bees for local farmers.

Mr Kumar said that 120 complete sets of single bee hive boxes will be installed at the Batiri Research Station in Vanua Levu under this program and 30 at the Dobuilevu Research Station in Ra.

“Another 70 nucleus boxes will also be installed to assist in this program. Therefore the total breeding stock at Batiri Research Station will be around 220 to 250 colonies and 60 to 80 colonies at Dobuilevu Research Station,” he said.

This he says will greatly assist in stock build up and setting up of hives for the newly produced queen bees.

He said once in full operation, the station will be able to produce and supply 40 – 50 queen bees every week to the interested farmers.

“Our aim is to supply best quality queen bees at a lower cost to the interested farmers who want to improve their gene pool.

“Farmers can buy the Italian Queen Bees at $15 per queen and the commercial farmers will be entitled to buy five Queen Bees, Semi Commercial farmers three while Subsistence farmers will be entitled to buy 2 Queen Bees.

“We are recommending bee farmers to buy the Italian queen bees to improve the breed of bees for better yield.

“Italian bees produce more honey compared to the cross of Italian and European black bees that most of the farmers in Fiji currently have in their hives,” he said.

Batiri Bee Research Station is currently involved in the production of queen bees and a small amount of nucleus.

Meanwhile there are 1,548 bee farmers in Fiji with 14,276 hives from which 516 farmers are from the Western Division with 7521 hives while 742 farmers are from the Northern Division with 3961 hives. The rest are from the Central and Eastern Divisions.

The Ministry of Agriculture provides technical advice to the farmers on bee keeping and also provides farmer trainings.

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