In a bid to bolster more activity within the apiculture industry, agriculture leaders have forged an alliance with the government and people of the Republic of Argentina, a country known to strategically advance its agriculture and farming sector to meet new global standards.
His Excellency Gustavo Martinez Pandiani, ambassador of the Argentine Republic to Barbados and the OECS, made a courtesy call to the agriculture ministry to engage key apiculture stakeholders, including the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), and key ministry personnel in a consultation to identify areas of action to advance the apiculture industry.
In addressing the gathering, Ambassador Pandiani said it is his hope to design a work program that will be of mutual benefit to the two countries, Saint Lucia and Argentina, and which will support the unique needs of the local apiculture industry.
“We have identified apiculture as one of the priority areas. The intention of this program is not only to become technically efficient in honey production but also efficient commercialization and in marketing,” he said.
“Sometimes, we realise the Caribbean has the capabilities for producing good honey but at times, the obstacle is how to sell it, how to prepare yourselves to even export it. Given the cost of importing food products in Saint Lucia, as in other parts of the Caribbean, this project means a great initiative for the island to start exporting honey instead of importing it. And, taking into account the heavy import bill you have in Saint Lucia, it would be a great initiative for the government to lower the import bill by starting to export rather than importing honey.”
The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture Representative for the Eastern Caribbean States, Gregg Rawlins, said his organisation has been working with the Argentine government in developing areas of mutual collaboration.
On the itinerary for the coming weeks, Mr Rawlins explains that while Saint Lucia is somewhat ahead of the other OECS islands, Ambassador Pandiani will return to the island from Dec. 5 to 9, for a fact-finding mission.
“A project has been developed called ApiCARIBE, which seeks to support the apiculture industry in the Caribbean region. Not only from the perspective of taking advantage to improve and increase the production of honey and its by-products, but also addressing the bee population and the challenges in relation to bee populations given the important role bees play in the pollination of crops. The first phase of the project involves four countries: Barbados, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Saint Lucia. Under this first phase, experts from Argentina will be visiting the four countries. They have already visited Barbados and Dominica and are now preparing for visits to Saint Lucia and St. Kitts and Nevis.”
In applauding the ongoing efforts to improve the agriculture economy, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Barrymore Felicien, said he wants to ensure the first phase of the project is successful and as such has called on apiculture stakeholders to be open to the exchange and dialogue necessary to augment the performance of the sub-sector.
“One concern is that we need to develop the skillset and capacity to deal with technical assistance within the ministry and on the ground,” Mr. Felicien said. “Recently, on my trip to Costa Rica, there were discussions to explore how technical assistance with an institution called CARTI, to strengthen extension services, so that is an area of concern for us. We are looking to see how we can strengthen support to our apiculturists, farmers, and fishers generally through our ministry. We look forward to the technical fact-finding mission to provide that documentation required for a proper assessment of the apiculture industry in Saint Lucia, so we could move forward.”
Currently, agriculture development leaders view apiculture as a viable sub-sector which can, with strategic intervention, positively impact the overall agriculture economy.