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Female bee farmer targeting major commercial engagements

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Recipient of the Jamaica Diaspora Agriculture Taskforce’s (JDAT) initial Investor Circle micro grants, Patricia Parchment, plans to venture into commercial bee farming.

Parchment, who is currently involved in the harvesting and bottling of honey as well as the manufacturing of lotions and hair oils, is looking to get into large-scale queen bee rearing and beeswax production.

She told JIS News that despite these being absorbing engagements, regarded as unconventional areas for women, they are lucrative, and is encouraging other female farmers to give consideration to getting involved in these.

Among the benefits to be derived, she noted, are extensive training and the opportunity to better understand the characteristics of bees.

Parchment, who is President of the Westmoreland Bee Farmers Association, said she wants to get more farmers involved in bee farming as well as assist with the development of youth in agriculture. “My hope is for the bee industry to be taken seriously, as it is a very lucrative industry,” she said.

Parchment said bee farming is multi-dimensional, pointing out that “I am now venturing into soap making in an effort to use up the bee products, such as wax and honey, in my products as much as possible”.

The bee farmer explained that while she currently sells to the general public, she aspires to further develop her apiary in an effort to expand sales to outlets, such as supermarkets.

Parchment, who noted that she is relatively new to the industry, indicated that she started three years ago with one hive.

She said however, that the business is growing, and boasts that she has increased the number to 27, adding that her goal of becoming a commercial bee farmer requires her having 120 hives. Parchment pointed out that bee farming equipment is very expensive, noting challenges which females in particular encounter in sourcing these.

Hence, she added, the reason why she applied for the Diaspora’s Investor Circle micro grant.

She is among first five beneficiaries of funds ranging between $50,000 and $75,000.

Parchment, who is also a member of the Westmoreland Organic Farmers Society, said she hopes the grant will enable her to fulfil her dream of being a commercial bee farmer, thereby accessing the export market and generating significantly greater earnings.

A 2009 Agriculture and Fisheries survey showed that of 1,202 registered Jamaican bee farmers, only 137 were females.

— JIS

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