GRENADA'S Prime Minister, Dickon Mitchell, announced on Tuesday night at the TTMA’s 2022 awards ceremony that he was pushing to re-establish honey exporting to TT.
Since 2018, discussions between the two countries have been ongoing as Grenada seeks to resume export of its honey to TT, which banned it in the 1930s because of fears of transmission of American Foul Brood disease, which can destroy entire colonies of bees.
Guyana has also been keen to export its honey to this country.
At least part of the disconnect between TT’s laws on honey importation and the current reality of beekeeping is to be found in this country’s 62-year-old Food and Drug Act and the even more ancient Beekeeping and Bee Products Act of 1935.
But what of local beekeeping? The dismantling of the Apiary Unit in 1988 was only one marker of the steady decline in interest by successive governments in the business.
With no attention to ageing and obsolescent legislation, little effort by the government to support the expansion and modernisation of the industry, and widespread clearing of land, apiculture has declined dramatically from its peak in 1947. Between 2008 and 2010, the count of active beekeepers fell from 300 to 16.
The current Inspector of Apiaries, Hayden Sinanan, is an agricultural assistant in the Agriculture Ministry who volunteered for the unpaid role because of his personal interest in the beekeeping business.
A new generation of beekeepers have focused their trade on developing boutique products from honey and other bee products.
The challenges that this reduction in beekeeping and colony management poses to agriculture is also a matter for concern. Bees and butterflies are nature’s pollinators, playing a crucial role in the sustainability and diversity of agriculture.
Bees and flowering fruit trees, for instance, are a self-sustaining dynamic that rewards farmers by delivering the natural diversity of genetic pollination while delivering a range of products from commercial hives, which include beeswax and propolis, or bee-glue, which is stirring interest in the medical community.
In 2018, then Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat noted that the country remained defensive about removing the honey import ban. But it isn’t clear that that position is based on scientific method. The transfer of bee diseases can be managed by insisting on adherence to international standards for beekeeping in source countries and testing of consignments for known infestations.
TT’s diminished supply of honey, once an award-winning export is another casualty of this country’s focus on oil and gas, and the same careless approach to facilitating honey imports needlessly limits regional producers’ access to our market.