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The Bee’s Knees

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Prairie honey producers see new investment

A multi-million-dollar investment from the federal government has got the local bee industry buzzing with excitement.

The Manitoba Cooperative Honey Producers Ltd. has received an infusion of $2.2 million from Prairies Economic Development Canada—the department tasked with diversifying the economy on the Prairies—to help beekeepers in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

The money will be put towards a new processing facility and packaging equipment as well as market development to increase market share in Canada, the U.S. and Asia.

Guy Chartier, CEO of Bee Maid Honey Ltd., says he expects 90 new spin-off jobs will be created as local producers continue to grow and can deliver more honey to the co-op. The category is most definitely in growth mode, he says.

“We sell more honey in grocery stores than we ever have before and we sell more honey through restaurants and as a food ingredient to other manufacturers more than we ever have,” he says.

Bee Maid currently employs about 60 people while MCHP has another 40 people on its payroll. The co-ops in Manitoba and Alberta own Bee Maid Honey, which is their marketing arm.

Chartier says construction is expected to begin before the end of the year at a new MCHP facility in the St. Boniface Industrial Park. The blueprint calls for it to be about twice as big as its current 60,000-square-foot plant near the Richardson International Airport.

The repayable investment from the federal government comes at a time when the industry, both in Manitoba and across the country, is reeling from the effects of extended bad weather. Some reports say that 40 to 50 per cent of Canadian beehives have been wiped out this year.

Art Bergmann, vice-chair of the MCHP, says its team has an open invitation to other honey producers to join their 84-year-old cooperative.

“We pack about 30 per cent of the honey produced in Canada in our facilities in Edmonton and Winnipeg. We have a desire to grow that. We think there are opportunities,” he says. According to Statistics Canada, there were 13,105 Canadian beekeepers and 810,496 colonies in 2021, up from 10,589 beekeepers and 790,668 colonies in 2017. Combined, they produce more than $278 million worth of honey annually.

Daniel Vandal, minister for PrairiesCan, says honey producers play an important role in Canadian agriculture.

“There are many opportunities available to them and our government is a partner in accelerating these opportunities and helping mitigate risks businesses may experience when grabbing hold of them,” he says. “We’re working to help the agri-food sector and value-added agriculture thrive and be competitive in the global marketplace.”


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