Zambia’s honey sector grows

NAWA MUTUMWENO –      Zambia has emerged as Africa’s largest exporter of honey and bee products into the European Union (EU) and the United States of America (USA) with supply to these markets forecasted at 1 000 tonnes by the close of 2010.

According to Agri-Business Forum (ABF) executive secretary Felix Chizhuka, the country is destined to expand its honey industry five-fold in the next five years.

He was speaking at the launch of a publicity campaign for the second Africa Apiculture Exposition (dubbed ApiExpo Africa 2010) at Taj Pamodzi Hotel in Lusaka on Tuesday, August 31, 2010.

The second expo will be held in the Zambian capital from October 26 to 29, 2010 under the theme:  The role of beekeeping in attaining Food Security in Africa. This follows the inaugural event which was held in Kampala, Uganda two years ago under the theme: Promoting Trade and Investments in the African Honey Industry.

“We expect to export in excess of 1 000 tonnes of liquid honey into Europe, the Middle East, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and the USA,” he elaborated.

Currently, over 50 000 people derive sustainable livelihoods from honey and bee products in the country.

The price of the commodity has attracted more people to the sector with honey fetching K3 500 per kg from a paltry K 1 500 three years ago.

And announcing Zambia’s hosting of the mammoth event, ApiTrade Africa chief executive officer Bosco Okello said it was unfortunate that Africa only accounts for a meager one percent of the massive global honey trade, estimated at $200 billion.

It is hoped that Africa would take advantage of the ApiExpo 2010 to attract global attention to the sector and to broker lucrative business deals that will help the continent penetrate new markets the world over.

Based in Kampala, ApiTrade Africa is a not-for-profit member-based organization providing a platform to spearhead the cause of the apiculture sector in Africa through trade.

Specific objectives of the Expo encompass the following: to showcase value added, market-oriented bee products from different parts of Africa; to showcase business inputs and services in the sector; platform for governments and research and development (R & D ) agencies  to share experiences in  programmatic and policy interventions in the sector; to expose farmers, processors and exporters to market opportunities and market requirements; to link African honey processors and exporters to buyers from developed markets; to create cross-border networks within Africa which stimulate intra-African trade between bee farmers, honey traders and service providers; platform for advocacy on sector issues which require action at national, regional and international levels; to promote tourism and related industries in the host country; to strengthen social and cultural ties within the African continent; and source of revenue for umbrella bodies in honey growing countries and other sectors: food industry,  hotel industry, airline industry, commercial crafts, etc.

Benefits and lessons  from the 2008 edition of the Expo include: value added products showcased strengthened peer-to-peer learning for processors, exporters and beekeepers; government representatives from Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya presented their policy positions in terms of commercialization of beekeeping (most of these countries are developing national beekeeping policies); cross-border skills transfer between Zambia (led by the Zambia Honey Council)          and Ethiopia (led by Beza Mar Agro Industries Plc) with two exchange visits being undertaken to  share experiences in terms of production technologies and value addition; the trend of trade between Africa and the EU is changing and improving with the EU buyers now interested in buying packed African honey as opposed to the traditional way of buying bulk honey (Irish importers have since been linked to Tanzanian exporters of packed honey); relisting of Kenya among countries that can export honey to the EU market.; ApiTrade Africa has initiated a pilot program (Market and Investment Promotion of Apiculture in Africa) to support new investors in the beekeeping sector (new investments are emerging, e.g., Lira Integrated University and Chrisco Church in Uganda are jointly setting up a multi-purpose Api-tourism Centre in northern Uganda); and there is improved media coverage of the sector in the honey industry as  the media have been accorded a grand opportunity to interact with delegates, exhibitors and experts to generate factual information.

ApiTrade Africa has partnered with the Zambia Honey Partnership (ZHP) and COMESA’s Agency for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa to convene this mammoth event.

“Today, honey bees contribute over $200 bn to the global economy through honey and other bee products which are marketed widely and globally. We are convinced that Africa should benefit immensely from this opportunity, given its vast national vegetation and healthy bee population,” Okello said.

And Dr John Mukuka of ACTESA said his organization would support the seed multiplication activities of small-holder farmers and Moringa tree production which enhances honey production. The tree increases the quality of honey and is a good source of nectar for honey production. The collaboration of the EU-funded COMESA Regional Agro Inputs Programme (COMRAP) and ApiTrade Africa in the production of the Moringa tree will also address issues dealing with micro finance and agro-dealership. In the seed multiplication activity, COMRAP is targeting at least 40% female participation.

Indeed African honey and bee products are poised for a bright future that would help reverse the poverty trends in the world’s poorest continent.