Beekeeping is an agroforest activity that protects the environment, contributes to food security through the pollination of crops, and represents an important, albeit underdeveloped, industry that could provide employment to many Belizeans. In time, beekeeping has the potential to become a source of foreign exchange through the exportation of honey and other hive products such as beeswax, propolis, pollen, bees and manufactured products such as soaps, creams and shampoos.
On May 27th and 28th, 2016, the beekeeping community met at the Cayo Welcome Center in San Ignacio to address the potential of beekeeping in Belize and its present challenges. The two-day event was organized by Cayo Quality Honey Producers Cooperative (CQHPC). CQHPC is based in the Cayo District and was founded in 2006. Its 28 active members produce premium honey for the Belizean market. All our members are trained on ecologically sound honey production practices, including the natural control of pests and diseases. The cooperative has signed an agreement with the Ministry of Agriculture to have its honey bottling operation housed at the ministry’s agro processing facility in Central Farm.
This first International Beekeeping Symposium brought together over 70 stakeholders in the beekeeping industry including beekeepers from across Belize. Other attendees included the chief agricultural officer and chief executive officer from the Ministry of Agriculture, registrar of Cooperatives, district Cooperative officers, representatives of BAHA, Bureau of Standards, Pesticide Control Board, Development Finance Corporation and Atlantic Bank as well as representatives from Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), GIZ/Selva Maya from Guatemala and Belize. Other representatives from Guatemala and Mexico included the Ministry of Agriculture (SAGARPA), and Melitzaak Honey Cooperative from Carrillo Puerto, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
The first part of the morning session was dedicated to presentations by our international invitees who gave overviews of beekeeping in their respective regions. It was interesting to note the considerable support this industry has attracted in the form of properly planned government programmes; both countries are well ahead of us in their beekeeping development. The second part of the morning focused on the status of honey production by Ms. Fay Garnett, Cayo District Agricultural Officer, and the traceabililty of agricultural products and its importance to the beekeeping industry was presented by Mario Howe of the Department of Agriculture.
The afternoon session was dedicated to an analysis of the situation of beekeeping in Belize; it was moderated by Ms. Jennie Garcia Sacqui, Director of GIZ/Selva Maya Programme in Belize. The concerns raised during the afternoon sessions included the need for the beekeeping industry to be a part of a national development plan that recognizes its potential in the conservation of our forests as well as the production of a commodity for export. Many topics were addressed by the participants including the need to raise the profile of beekeeping and the beneficial uses of honey and other hive products such as pollen, propolis, and royal jelly for the health of Belizeans, the need to update outdated beekeeping laws, the lack of technical assistance to beekeepers, the need for formal training, the limited resources for expansion of apiaries, the need for honey standards and the importance of traceability, the destructive nature of forest fires to beekeeping, and insecticide poisoning of bees. Of special concern was the contraband of honey from Peten and Quintana Roo and the threat to public health, (especially to diabetic persons) posed by the sale of adulterated honey by unscrupulous beekeepers.
One key outcome of the symposium was the formation of a beekeeping task force that will seek to develop a profile of the industry at the national level and develop a strategic plan for its development. This task force was created on the recommendation of Mr. Jose Alpuche, CEO for the Ministry of Agriculture. The initial working group was selected and included beekeepers Iliana Ayuso (Northern Belize), Miguel Mendez, Belize District; Bartolo Teul, Yaaxche Conservation Trust (YCT) Toledo; Montse Casademunt, Cayo Quality Honey Producers Cooperative; Margarito Leiva, technician and beekeeper; Hugo Miranda, Cooperatives Department; Max Ortega, IICA representative; Mario Howe and Ricardo Thompson from the Ministry of Agriculture.
(The good news is that a first meeting of the task force took place on June 8th with full representation. A work plan was developed and responsibilities assigned to every member of the task force. A national beekeeping survey was identified a priority, as information on the number of hives, number of beekeepers and honey production is sketchy.)
Honey Day, a family-oriented event, followed the International Beekeeping Symposium and was celebrated on Saturday May 28, outside the Cayo Welcome Center. Representatives from Melitzaak Cooperative from Quintana Roo were there to display and sell their many honey and hive products. Besides honey sales, the event featured cool honey drinks courtesy of the food processing facility at Central Farm and educational displays including a glass observation hive that attracted a lot of interest especially among children and a display of beekeeping equipment.
Cayo Quality Honey Cooperative looks forward to making an International Beekeeping Symposium and Honey Day an annual event.
Cover photo: Ms. Fay Garnett, Cayo District Agricultural Officer
Label for one photo to imbed in article:
Biol. Darwin Jesus Pech Pool of Melitzaak Cooperative and Margarito Leiva