JIS News

Islandwide inspection of  bee hives are to begin in the next two weeks to determine the extent of the incidence of the American Foul Brood Disease (AFB), as part of Government’s efforts to eradicate the disease.

Expected to last for six months, this exercise is being undertaken by the Apiculture Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and forms part of activities under a $40 million project titled: ‘Strengthening the Capacity of Stakeholders in the Apiculture Sector to Control and Manage the American Foul Brood Disease (AFB) and Enhance Production’.

Under the technical guidance of the Apiculture Unit, the project seeks to implement measures to eradicate the AFB, which has been affecting bee farmers in Jamaica. The project is being implemented by the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA), in collaboration with the All Island Bee Farmers’ Association and the Jamaica Federation of Commercial Apiculturists.

Speaking at the launch of the project at the Agriculture and Fisheries Ministry in Kingston, today (March 8), Minister,  Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton said the project is a good initiative, which “demonstrates a commitment by all concerned and I encourage and commend all those who are a part of it.”

He pointed out that the Government and stakeholders aim to make bee-keeping a wealth creating activity, and to do so, “we have to guard against the risks that are involved in the process, the AFB being a significant risk.”

Dr. Tufton noted that since the disease was discovered in the country in 1918, it has been controlled to a point, “and we are making an effort now to try, as best as possible, to eradicate it, or to significantly control it.”

The Minister further appealed to bee keepers to assist in the process of helping to control the disease, which represents a significant risk to the expansion and build out of the industry.  

“I encourage all the farmers to engage the process and to live true to their commitment to control the disease,” he added.

Head of the Apiculture Unit, Reginald Peddy, explained that the Unit will dispatch in the field, five teams of inspectors, each led by an Apiculture Extension Specialist from the Unit.

“We will be depending on the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) where there is resistance to enter some properties to assist us in gaining entry. We are also depending on the assistance of the bee keepers and individuals who know the whereabouts of apiaries that we do not have information on, to assist us to identify and locate them,” he said.

Rural Development Specialist, IICA, Shauna Brandon, said that where the disease is found during the inspections, the infected hives will be burnt.

 She pointed out that as part of the project, training in bee-keeping best practices will be conducted with bee farmers  as well as business management in the six target parishes of St. Catherine, Clarendon, St. James, St. Mary, Portland and St. Thomas

“In addition to that, we will be establishing 500 commercial apiaries, and the aim is to strengthen the association’s ability to earn revenue to be able to fund ongoing monitoring of the disease,” she said.

The project, which is to end in December, is being funded by the European Union Banana Support Programme, which is financed by the European Union in collaboration with the Government of Jamaica.

The AFB is caused by a spore forming bacteria, Bacillus larvae. The disease is highly contagious and the spores of the bacteria which cause it are very persistent. They can survive on contaminated equipment for up to 40 years and still cause an infection. AFB can appear and spread quickly through a colony and if left untreated may result in the death of the hive in a short time.