By Nawa Mutumweno – Zambia expects to earn about $5 million from the export of 1 200 tonnes of honey to the United States and the European Union (EU) this year.
Projections are that growth will reach 5 000 tonnes of beeswax and other products.
According to the chairperson of the Zambia Honey Partnership (ZHP) Munshimbwe Chitalu, the country is expected to raise $5 million through honey exports, which provide for over 30 000 beekeeping households, accounting for 25% of their earnings.
“Besides food and income, bee products have a diversity of application including among them honey, beeswax, propolis, a natural medicine, royal jelly and pollen and bee venom, for healing many ailments,” he clarified.
Honey is a natural sweetener in the food industry and raw material in the cosmetic industry; beeswax is a raw material in candle, polish and fabric industries; propolis is a natural medicine; royal jelly and pollen are food supplements for infants and persons with dietary needs; and bee venom is an important healing compound for many ailments, he added.
He implored Government to review the status of bee keeping to accelerate Zambia’s endeavour to attain middle-income state status.
Government should consider developing an enabling environment that will attract increased investments into the sector and also include bee keeping in national programs.
It would be useful if a support program for the beekeeping sector is put in place like the case was for agriculture.
“As an immediate sector demand, government should devise a Beekeeping Sector Support Programme to help drive the industry forward,” Mr Chitalu pointed out.
Honey bees contribute over $200 billion globally through crop pollination, production of honey and other bee products which are marketed widely.
Due to increased income earnings from bee keeping, communities are developing a positive attitude towards forest conservation. This is a viable action in reducing green house emissions, opening new opportunities for income generation through carbon trading, thus contributing to the prevention of climate change.
“Despite this background, the annual volumes of bee products in Zambia is still low – being less than 1 500 tonnes of beeswax against a potential of over 30 000 tonnes of honey, 3 000 tonnes of beeswax and a variety of bee products,” he said.
Factors that contribute to the prevailing situation include: inadequate policy provisions and inclusion of beekeeping sector in national plans; inadequate knowledge among beekeepers which limits the extent to which they can realize the productive potential of modern equipment, specifically beehives; weak beekeeping producer organizations; and inadequate financing to the sector which has several negative implications on sector performance (proliferation of use of poor equipment for beekeeping and processing; compromise of hygiene and quality of processed bee products; inability to produce other bee products such as pollen, venom, royal jelly and propolis and low purchase of bee products, leaving the bulk for conversion into a local brew called imbote).
Mr. Chitalu highlighted the numerous benefits of increased investment in the sector. These encompass the following: high return of investment (a beehive with a lifespan of 10 years and above, costing only K250 000 can raise revenue up to K25 million through honey production and sales; beekeeping products offer opportunities for entry into new value chains in other sectors such as agriculture, pharmaceuticals, tourism, etc; with projected annual growth to 5 000 metric tonnes of honey, 500 metric tonnes of beeswax and several tonnes of propolis, royal jelly, venom and pollen, beekeeping can earn Zambia over K250 billion per annum by the year 2015, thus helping the country on its march to achieving the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) .