$20m honey market creating major buzz

A $20m market for honey-related products presents a tremendous entrepreneurial opportunity for Bahamians, the head of a local beekeeping co-operative believes.

Alex Holden, chairman of the newly-formed Bahamas National Beekeepers Co-Operative (BNBC), said commercial beekeepers in The Bahamas can make more than $100,000 a year given consumer demand for honey, bees wax, royal jelly and other bee-related products.

With local beekeepers capturing only a fraction of that market, he argued there was tremendous capacity for growth that makes beekeeping an attractive entrepreneurial venture - especially since a backyard hive can be started for less than $1,000.

Community-centered co-operatives bring together like-minded individuals focused on developing their business. Those such as BNBC provide quality products for the market, ensuring financial gains remain within this nation’s borders and in the hands of the owner members through a collaborative effort.

Mr Holden said the BNBC’s membership reflects this goal, with an even mix of women and men, family island representation, and a cross-section of professionals - from accountants and corporate managers to police officers and entrepreneurs. He added that the co-operative is open to more than just beekeepers, serving all stakeholders from the bee enthusiast to persons interested in protecting the environment.

“The nature of cooperatives lends itself to this industry in particular, and it really is the best way to bring all these people together. It sets the stage for meaningful conversation and industry development,” said Mr Holden.

He added that the co-operative’s formation will help standardise beekeeping, a fledgling industry that has experienced tremendous growth in the last few years, and aid its long-term sustainability and economic viability.

“By implementing scientific processes, we can ensure that the quality of Bahamian honey is produced at a premium and bee populations are healthy and robust,” Mr Holden said.

“We want to protect the native bees and nurture the development of our own bees because they are biologically suited to our environment. One of the problems we are facing is prospective beekeepers purchasing foreign bee populations and bringing them into our ecosystem. The sustainable and ecological way to get into the industry is to get your bees locally, and the best way is to join the co-op.”

Mr Holden added that almost all of BNBC’s members offer bee and hive removal as a service, which ensures they have access to generous quantities of Bahamian bees.

Beyond the actual honey and honeycomb, there are a number of value-added honey products that also bring economic reward, including bee’s wax and royal jelly, which is a digested pollen and regarded as a “super food”.

It is known to have anti-inflammatory properties, reduces the risk of heart disease, lowers blood pressure, blood sugar, and aids in the healing process. The BNB Co-op is looking into the production of mead, a lightly carbonated honey wine, and is also focused on protecting the local industry from inferior, lower-cost imports that may be impure.

“One of the things that we’re doing is bringing in spectrometers and measuring devices that can ensure 100 percent honey purity,” Mr Holden said. “Bahamians are managing hives organically, but other countries like China and India, they are not managing hives organically. In many cases the honey has been diluted with high fructose corn syrup. We take them at their word that is it 100 percent honey, but often it’s not.

We hope to educate the wider Bahamian community on the importance of bees in the environment and wider eco-system, and we hope that every Bahamian citizen takes a more active role in incorporating sustainable measures that will protect the environment and improve their lives.”