M A Y 2 0 2 3
Nadi, Fiji – Minister of Agriculture Hon. Vatimi Rayalu yesterday delivered the opening address at the inaugural Pacific Islands Bee Congress, underscoring the achievements made through collaborative efforts among organizations, academic institutions, and the government.
“Beekeeping has a deep-rooted history in Fiji and the Pacific Islands, introduced by early missionaries who brought honey bees to the region. The importance of the agriculture industry cannot be overemphasized given the involvement of the huge number of our rural population in the industry who rely on it for their livelihoods and in particular the women who have chosen agriculture as their main source of income.”
“It is an honor to be here this morning to officiate the first Pacific Islands Bee Congress, I think it is a perfect example of how close collaborations between organizations, academic institutions and government can achieve within a very short time.”
Despite the longstanding presence of beekeeping, the full potential of this industry in Fiji remains untapped, and the minister expressed hope for meaningful discussions during the 5 Day Congress.
He said the Pacific Islands face shared challenges due to climate change, pest and disease control, and excessive chemical use, all contributing to the decline of bee populations in the region.
Minister Rayalu acknowledged the ideal agricultural conditions in Fiji and other Pacific Island Countries while highlighting the need for collective action to address these challenges.
Fiji currently boasts over 1,200 beekeepers and more than 13,500 beehives, resulting in an annual honey production exceeding 250 tonnes. However, there is ample room for growth, as the country has the potential to establish 50,000 hives, producing approximately 1,500 tonnes of honey and generating an estimated $22 million in revenue.
Minister Rayalu commended the industry’s progress, highlighting the formation of various organizations that actively involve rural communities in beekeeping such as the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), the European Union, and other stakeholders, who provide substantial support through funding, grants, and technical expertise.
Minister Rayalu also announced that the Ministry of Agriculture has received a budget allocation of $150,000 for the 2022-2023 financial year, while expressing the ministry’s request for increased funding in the upcoming budget from the Government of Fiji.
The minister emphasized the goals of the agriculture program, aiming to enhance the productivity and profitability of beekeepers while creating opportunities for the active participation of women and families. Key objectives include providing improved genetics, offering training on post-harvest handling and equipment for value-adding and marketing, and disseminating information on effective pest treatment methods and improved nutrition.
Minister Rayalu concluded by acknowledging and commending the significant presence of women at the congress, recognizing their instrumental role in honey production not only in Fiji but across the Pacific.
The Pacific Islands Bee Congress sets the stage for a promising future for beekeeping in the region, as stakeholders collaborate to unlock the vast potential of this industry while ensuring environmental sustainability and supporting the livelihoods of local communities.