KINGSTON — The first shipment of Jamaican honey, produced under a joint venture agreement between the Government, the All-Island Bee Farmers’ Association (AIBFA) and the Boston Diaspora Ventures LLC (BDV), is expected to hit overseas markets within six months.
This was disclosed by Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Robert Montague, at the signing of the agreement at the Ministry, Hope Gardens, in Kingston on Thursday September 1.
The AIBFA and the BDV have been negotiating for some time to enter into a collaborative business venture, to assist Jamaica’s bee farmers and the beekeeping industry by processing, bottling, and marketing Jamaican honey at the bottling plant owned by the AIBFA.
In 2008, a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) was signed between the entities, indicating their commitment to enter into the arrangement. During the ongoing process, a decision was eventually made to include the Government in the negotiations, culminating in the signing.
Mr. Montague said it was “extremely commendable” that Jamaicans residing in Boston decided to form themselves into a commercial entity, to assist Jamaican bee farmers market their product. He noted that the venture will see the amount of hives in the field multiply and contribute to increasing the value-added chain of products.
“We will be exporting a product not only to the Jamaican community in Boston, but to the wider United States and, as we develop that network and that chain, we can then open the gates to other products and especially to value-added products (such as) honey wine, soap, hair oil, body lotion,” he said.
Mr. Montague pledged the Government’s support in ensuring that the venture is successful, while affirming its commitment to expanding honey production in Jamaica.
He charged the stakeholders to work together to increase production and productivity, enhance efficiency in the operation of the bottling plant and create the opportunity for new investments in honey.
He also encouraged those involved in the process to copyright, patent and register Jamaican honey, noting that the Ministry of Agriculture is already working with the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce to copyright a number of the country’s indigenous and unique products.
He said this will ensure that no one can illegally use the brand or name, and farmersb will be able to reap maximum benefits from their production.
Director of the BDV, Leo Williams said the intention is to penetrate the markets of the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom (UK).
“We plan to do it on behalf of the farmers and the beekeepers in Jamaica. So we want to make sure that just as people recognise Blue Mountain coffee, in the honey business there should be a brand as strong and as vibrant and as sought after for honey as well, globally,” he said.
He also stated that that the BDV formed a joint venture company – the AIBDV Honey Company- that will be responsible for the collection, processing, bottling/packaging, sale and marketing of quality Jamaican honey.
He noted that the Jamaican Government is going to be part owner in the company for a period of two years, while the AIBFA and the BDV will own 40 per cent each.
“The Government will have a 20 per cent stake, which will transition over at the end of two years and will be a full 50/50 joint venture at that point, except what is in the public market,” he explained.
The public will also have a chance to own shares in the company, as there are also plans to have an initial public offer on the Junior Stock Exchange.
This is going to be the vehicle through which most of the Boston Diaspora and others will have a chance to participate,” Mr. Williams noted.
Under the joint venture agreement, the bottling plant is also to be upgraded, he further informed.
The All Island Bee Farmers Association (AIBFA) is comprised of 12 parish bee-farming organisations. It was established in 1989 to strengthen the local industry. The AIBFA’s primary objectives include encouraging production and co-operative marketing among its members, co-ordinating beekeeping programmes, training, supplying equipment and materials to farmers and advocating on their behalf.
The Boston Diaspora Ventures LLC (BDV) is an investment group created by Jamaicans living in Boston. Its formation was inspired by Dr. Kenneth I. Guscott, the Jamaican Honorary Consul for the Boston area. It is committed to assisting Jamaicans and local organisations to gain access to markets and opportunities, globally.
By Alecia Smith, JIS Reporter