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Saturday, 03 September 2016 15:48

The bees in business: Entrepreneurial venture in farming

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Mildred Crawford was the guest speaker at the Spring Village Training Institute Honey product launch on August 31, 2016 Mildred Crawford was the guest speaker at the Spring Village Training Institute Honey product launch on August 31, 2016 Old Harbour News Photo
The following is an edited excerpt delivered by Mildred Crawford of the Jamaican Network of Rural Women Producers and World Farmers Organization at the launch of the Spring Village Training Institute honey product on August 31, 2016. Crawford, a member of the Jamaica Agricultural Society, speaks to the viability of the apiculture industry in Jamaica and on a global level and even how as a nation we can leverage ourselves within the context of the recent breakaway by the United Kingdom from the European Union.

An entrepreneur is someone who organizes, manages and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise. An entrepreneur is an agent of change. Entrepreneurship is the process of discovering new ways of combining resources. Framed within the context of entrepreneurship, it is noted that over 12,000 persons rely on beekeeping for their livelihood. Nature has provided us with this rich resource which has the ability to diversify or add value and it is evidenced in Jamaica through innovativeness.

When an industry has the potential to generate $642.84 million from honey annually, at farm gate, it is time to evaluate and exploit the untapped opportunities. As farmers we know we can save our country from the debt burden it now experience and we can feed our country if we get the support of the government and the private sector.

If you eat you should care about how your food is raised and who raises it. We are small-scale family farmers, advocates for sustainable agriculture, and anyone else who is interested in the food and farming system.

Diversity

The cases studied are many across the island of Jamaica; and it makes me feel proud to share. There are bee farmers who have already launch out and have been successful in adding value to honey production. I have seen flavoured honey in St Thomas done by a rural woman, Allison Hollies, who is doing ginger honey, scotch bonnet pepper honey and rosemary flavoured honey. In Mile Gully, Manchester, royal jelly is being done in many forms, combining it with moringa which is very popular and in demand. I have seen the JDF Clarke Bee Farm in St Catherine, introducing an array of cosmetics, health and wellness products and food from honey. This is good but I am encouraging the consistency in quality, an increase in productivity and branding to qualify these products to enter and stay in the competitive market place.

Opportunities

While the consumption of honey and its byproducts are appreciated in our small country, the bulk of the market can be found overseas. As a country we do have an interest in foreign exchange which leads us into foreign markets and this comes with its challenges. Jamaica’s brand of products is in demand everywhere. Our producers only need to be consistent and make sure that we are transparent with our quality for sustainability.

International markets standards vary by country or regions. The new complexities to market issue as it relates to trade is Brexit. This is waiting to shake hands with every entrepreneur who wishes to do business in the United Kingdom or the European region. As commonwealth citizens, we have to view this from all angles and maximize on the strengths that exist. Since this is new I will simplify this for small farmers.

The decision taken by the UK to leave the EU can be seen as an opportunity for the farmers. Former trade agreements like the Cotonu Agreement and the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) left the Caribbean in a very restricted position when it comes to trade. We had to stop selling bananas, sugar and many other agricultural products to the UK and Europe. The introduction of Brexit has allowed for the UK to move away from the old regime and shackles and makes it more open to the free market.

Bottles of honey on display

This can be seen as an opportunity for bee farmers to get into the fluid UK market. It is an opportunity for our government who is directly involved in trade and agriculture to negotiate with a wide range of countries and settle with more favourable terms. They will have to exploit relationships, watch the landscape and be willing to trade while we as farmers and producers must be very consistent and make products ready for the competitive markets.

There are a lot of uncertainties on the arrival of Brexit as it relates to the new agreement between the EU and the UK. There is no official time set for the signing of agreements between both parties so we have to capitalize on the opportunities that exist. Unconfirmed information reveals that it might take up to 2018 for a discussion to begin. This has to commence with the triggering of Article 50.

Article 50 is a declaration of divorce that the UK will have to file to leave the EU. The UK will continue to be there until they can answer questions like ‘What legislation will be constructed to define the UK in the world since they have been operating under the EU for over 40 years and the EU played a critical role’.

Individual countries should be able to negotiate or CARICOM as a block; since Brexit has removed the EU constraints, it might be prudent for the Caribbean to enter the negotiating table with an objective of seeking special or preferential treatment from the UK countries! It also allows for what is known as Brexit Light which removes the immunities or any constraints that wound prevent movement in trade across the EU.

So how does the bee farmer benefit from this? Through decentralization, small producers/farmers will be able to benefit from the shift in paradigms whether they are short term or standard agreements. Through SDG negotiations, implementation gaps were identified as reasons why benefits arrive at the doorstep of the poor but cannot be accessed. As farmers, it demands strong advocates in the different categories of the agricultural sectors to ensure that policies include and address the issue that causes or contribute to the gaps. One such is marketing and access to markets. The small farmer sometimes lack the capacity to produce the quantity to meet an investor’s request; however an organized group like the bee farmers association with a combined effort can satisfy this market. The ripple effect would impact the very micro producer who also has this personal goal. Challenges

A cross-cutting issue that affects all producers in agricultural sector is access to capital. Hon. Karl Samuda in addressing this issue stated that 40 per cent of the economy is informal and is not accessing loans that are made available. Fifty per cent are SMEs. Small producers like the bee farmer will not benefit because the criteria is not user friendly or farmer friendly. Farmers reap based on season readiness. Bank payments are required every month or week.

In closing I am recommending that consultations continue to be held with farmers by category to ensure that decisions are tailored to the target group, thus allowing them to maximize the benefits provided.

Government must share with the organized groups the information on trade related issues that relates to trade so that small farmers can understand how they fit into the food system or the value chain to have more cohesion and full participation.

We applaud the effort that has been started by the honourable minister and encourage him to continue on the same pathway; and success will come from the farmers who are asking for partnership.

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