by Yosley Carrero
MATANZAS, Cuba, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- Garbed in a green beekeeping suit and hat, Giovanni Friscina closely was inspecting one of his some 500 beehives in Cayo Ramona, in western Cuba's Matanzas province.
"This place is in the middle of nowhere, there are no industries nearby," Friscina, 51, told Xinhua, adding this is what makes this rural idyll located 180 km east of the capital Havana the perfect place to make honey from wild flowers.
The third-generation beekeeper is one of the island country's top honey producers, with an output of 50 tons in 2021 alone.
"We promote natural beekeeping through environmentally friendly techniques," said Friscina.
Official figures show there are now a total of about 500 organic beekeepers in the country. Supported by the government, Cuba's honey-making industry has continued to grow, with record exports of 8,500 tons in 2021, mainly destined for markets in western Europe, Canada, Japan, the Bahamas, and Martinique.
Ruben Lugo, technical director of the state-run beekeeping company in Matanzas, told Xinhua that regional producers deliver 1,500-1,900 tons of honey a year.
"One of the main features of the honey we produce," Lugo said, is that "we do not use chemicals and pesticides."
Veterinarian Daivis Munoz, 33, is responsible for ensuring beehives in various communities in Matanzas to flourish.
"I take care of honeybee colonies," Munoz said. "I keep in close contact with the beekeepers, providing them with useful insights and tools for their work."
Nationwide there are four honey processing plants in the provinces of Havana, Artemisa, Sancti Spiritus and Santiago de Cuba, and they are busiest from February to June and from October to December.
"Bee farming is a complex process involving the detailed study of flowers and locations where the apiaries are situated," according to Orlay Espinosa, quality manager at the honey packaging and labeling plant in Havana's El Cano district.
With a monthly production capacity of 80 tons of honey, the plant packages 24 different types of bee products.
Reinaldo Garcia, a specialist at the Cuban Beekeeping Company (ApiCuba), told Xinhua that the government pays particular attention to honey production as one of the country's main export commodities.
"We have an integrated system for quality management, which is fundamental to ensuring the export of our honey to different markets," said Garcia, adding "our products have been internationally certified."
Cuba produced more than 10,500 tons of honey last year, according to official data. ■