LLANGENNECH based beekeepers are building Wales’ first dedicated bee farm from scratch.

Award winning honey producers Fferm Cilgwenyn will be building a new extracting and bottling facility on the outskirts of Llanelli having taken over an old coal mine that closed nearly a hundred years ago.

Beekeeper Rhodri Owen said: “We’ve been producing around 2 tonnes of award winning honey per year with some basic facilities and we still can’t keep up with demand with more and more retailers wanting to stock our products.”

“The only option was to build a new farm that was dedicated purely to beekeeping and the production of honey, a first for Wales. No existing farms could facilitate our needs without demolition and building new and provide a place to live too. We’ve got the plans, we just need to get the building process started.

“With the new facilities we will be creating the operational space to breed and place an extra 23 million bees into our county as well as to provide employment opportunities in the future – but people shouldn’t be alarmed at that as most people will not notice any difference. The biggest affect will be seen by farmers and gardeners alike with increased pollination as bee numbers have diminished over the last few decades.  It’s a good way to transform a former coal mine into productive agricultural and food producing land again.”

Rhodri continued: “our county has produced some of the very best honey available and we have been lucky to have won a Great Taste Award both in 2016, 2017 and yet again announced today for 2018, one of only 2 winners in Wales for Welsh honey for each of those years. The only way we can produce more honey without losing our distinctive Carmarthenshire taste is to have more bees in the area, and that means a big investment in facilities as well as bee colonies”.

More bees and better facilities will not only result in more honey but it will form part of a sustainable environment as well as offer employment opportunities. Rhodri said “we will need specialist skills in beekeeping as well as staff that can handle stock control as well as honey analysis”.

The new facilities had the green light from Carmarthenshire County Council members and planners and has also been successful in obtaining a Welsh Government grant for the new facility.

On a visit to the farm by Council Leader Emlyn Dole and local County Councillor Gwyneth Thomas he said: “I am totally supportive of the new farm and I welcome the first dedicated bee farm to be built in Wales in here in Llangennech Carmarthenshire.

Rhodri Owen with beehive Cilgwenyn

“It’s both good for the environment, inspirational use of the land whilst being supportive of the local economy by employing more staff and helping to bolster local retailers by offering a taste of the region. For them to win a Great Taste Award again this year they are evidently doing something right. I look forward to supporting it in its entirety and to the next visit when facilities are completed”.

The project has received funding through the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and Welsh Government.

The Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, said: “I’m delighted to see the Welsh Government supporting this new and exciting opportunity, helping support rural jobs and having a positive effect on the environment and biodiversity. Bees play a vital part in our ecosystem and I’m proud Wales is leading the way in helping protect our insect pollinators while creating new opportunities within our food industry.”

On the new build Rhodri said: “we are now starting the process going out to builders for the new facility and domestic space, so if you are a tradesperson in the building industry and would like to participate in the tender process please contact me through tender@bees.wales.”

The new facility is expected to be up and running in 2019.

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