Residents of Cicia Island in Fiji are cashing in on the organic status of their homeland growing another product for niche, premium markets. Organic Cicia honey, the first of its kind in Fiji, will be the second product, the first virgin coconut oil; islanders have developed since committing to ban the use of chemical fertilisers, weedicide and pesticides. Cicia was recognised as the first fully organic island in the Pacific in 2013.
Bee farmers from the island participated in a Basic Beekeepers training course funded by the European-Union through projects – Increasing Agricultural Commodity and Trade (IACT) and Pacific Agriculture Policy Project (PAPP) at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).
The training was held in Labasa town, Vanua Levu over two days from June 13. Participants were trained on the basics of bee farming, quality standards, harvests, and building a fruitful honey enterprise. The Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCom) that manages the Pacific Islands region eco-label Organic Pasifika works with islanders in promoting organic practices and livelihoods.
Organic Systems Extension officer Stephen Hazelman said “Involving Cicia islanders in the bee-keepers training will strengthen their organic honey enterprise.” He added “Let them learn, and take it right to the market stage and when they learn the potential, they can guide other islanders. The important thing is for the honey to be of a quality that is marketable.” Fifty-six year old Ilikena Niuvusa from Mabula village is excited about the income he will derive from an organic honey enterprise.
“I’m looking forward to making money but I am grateful to SPC and POETCom for the opportunity to learn more and get things right,” he said. “Having my product stamped with the Organic Pasifika label will be great,” Ilikena added. “Protecting the environment especially and having healthy soil systems is bringing us economic opportunities we didn’t have before.”
Bee keepers training coordinator Osea Rasea said that “there is huge potential for growing honey enterprises in Fiji and organically certified honey will enjoy a market of growing consumers who are very conscious of the origins of the food they eat”
“But in order to grow a honey industry you need to have solid knowledge through continuous training in particular on improving production and processing techniques for good quality honey for the domestic and potential export market” he added. Fiji produces annually on average 215 tonnes of honey valued at $912,485 but fails to meet domestic demand. In 2013, about 14,116.60 kilograms of honey valued at $91,000 was imported.