With the members of the Fiji Beekeepers Association producing the majority of the country’s honey, the Association’s President, John Lewis, believes there is great potential for the industry to grow.
Presently there are 10,000 beehives in the country that produce the honey. Government agriculture officer Kamal Prasad, who specializes in bees, reported that there is a potential for 50,000 hives.
On average each beehive produces 25 kilograms of honey. At the present retail prices of $17.50 per kilo, honey could generate a gross income of over 21 million dollars annually if the industry operates to its full capacity.
Mr. Lewis, whose association accounts for more than 80% of the 220 tonnes of honey produced last year in the country (2012 was a slightly below average production year), said to achieve its growth potential beekeeper training needs to be expanded.
“Government has very effective basic beekeeping training programs. We have worked closely with Government at selected workshops and the Association itself holds seminars and assists with groups of beekeepers, but funding is limited so much more needs to be done,” he said.
“Contrary to popular belief, beekeeping is not ‘easy-money’. Anyone who goes into beekeeping has a simple way of making money is bound to fail.
“Successful beekeeping requires commitment and dedication. Every successful beekeeper takes a personal interest in keeping his bees alive and healthy. He seeks to develop his skill by continual learning and training,” he said, and added, “there is an old saying, the beekeeper’s job is to look after the bees, it is the bee’s job to make honey’”
Lack of data also hinders growth in the industry. A beekeeping industry survey is presently being organized by the Fiji Beekeepers Association to produce accurate data to assist countrywide planning and development.
Founded in 1998, the Association has 45 members but interest in the industry is high, according to Mr. Lewis, and as many as 100 beekeepers show up to their regularly scheduled meetings.
The Association is also a founding member of the Fiji Crop & Livestock Council (FCLC).
Lavinia Kaumaitotoya, CEO of FCLC Secretariat, said that the strength of the Fiji Beekeepers Association joined by the Council’s other Associations, and working closely with Government, will have a major influence on moving the agriculture sector forward.
The Council is composed of the Pig, Dairy, Beef, Sheep/Goat, Root Crop, Ginger, Kava, Honey, Fruit, Salad Vegetables and Coconut Associations, as well as Food Processors.
The International Trade Centre is facilitating the development of the Fiji Crop & Livestock Council (FCLC) Secretariat with funds provided by the European Union through its Improvement of Key Services to Agriculture Programme.