The Sunday Mail
Word from the Market
People usually come up with business ideas after having discussions with friends or family members, or while alone. However, at times picking someone else’s idea and try to make it better can do the trick. Bee-keeping is usually the last of ideas that people would want to embrace, but it can be as rewarding as any other business, if carried out properly.
Apiculture is an art or science of keeping bees for purposes of harvesting hive products and offering bee-related services.
A Mutare-based farmer, Norest Moyo, said his bee-keeping journey has not only been fascinating, but rewarding.
“One of the most important things every businessperson needs to have is product knowledge. My passion is more about bees, and when you take care of these insects, they will return the favour ten-fold,” he said.
He further said “bees are responsible for most of the food we eat, and if we get rid of all our bees, humanity will face extinction”. Moyo reckoned that if every farmer becomes an apiculturist, they automatically become conservationists, because a bee farmer will always plant trees, make sure there are flowers around and reduce use of pesticides, which can be dangerous to the environment.
Below is the jargon used in bee-keeping.
Colony is a group of bees comprising a queen bee, hundreds of drones (male bees) and thousands of worker bees. When this group of bees occupies a space and makes it its home, the bees are classified as a colony.
Apiary is a place where a group of hives with bees are kept. A hive is a man-made shelter for bees to occupy and manufacture hive products. There are several hive products. They include honey, propolis, royal jelly, bee venom, bee wax and nucleus colonies. Propolis and its extracts have applications that can be used in the treatment of ailments due to its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial, antimycotic, anti-fungal, anti-ulcer, anti-cancer and immunomodulatory properties.
Type of hives
Traditional — These are fixed comb hives usually made from barks or logs. They are cheap to acquire, but pose an environmental burden, hence, are not sustainable and no longer encouraged. Deforestation to ring barking and logging destroys forests.
Transitional — These are derived from traditional hives. They have modern designs. Examples of transitional hives are the Kenyan and Tanzanian top bar hives. These have moveable combs and are usually used in a fixed apiary. If hives are transported, the combs break, so transitional hives are not ideal for migratory bee-keeping. However, they are environmentally friendly if made from sustainably harvested timber.
Langstroth hives — These are hives comprising a floorboard and brood box, a queen excluder, a honey super box and lid. They allow for migratory bee-keeping because the combs are secure. Such hives are ideal for pollination services and commercial bee-keeping operations as they are expandable. Other bee-related services include swarm removal and relocation; pollination; and provision of bee-keeping equipment such as hives, protective clothing, smokers and bee brushes; as well as training and consultancy.
A Kenyan top bar hive costs an average of US$25 and can produce 15 kg to 20 kg of honey per harvest. Langstroth hives cost an average of US$100 and can produce 12 kg per one super box per harvest. A hive can have two to three supers. Average harvests can be two or three times per year depending on micro-climatic factors, ecological zones and vegetation. The average selling price of honey is US$6 per kg.
Apiculturist Jacqui Gowe said she realises more than US$4 000 monthly from bee-keeping, especially from pollination services.
Leading importers of honey in 2021, according to Statista.com, include the US, German, Japan, the UK, China and France. Demand is usually high, especially during winter due to the prevalence of colds and flus. Drinking tea mixed with honey is a home remedy to soothe a sore throat. Yes, honey is believed to be an effective cough suppressant.
Analysts attribute low production in Zimbabwe to poor co-ordination, lack of appropriate technologies and poor bee-keeping practices. This is why the Agricultural Marketing Authority is calling for apiculturists to register with the authority so that there is co-ordinated production of honey and related products. Zimbabwe should take advantage of “sweet” export opportunities and the ever-increasing global honey market to diversify income sources. With its medicinal and nutritional value, honey will always be on demand all-year round.
Peter Gwidibira, a bee-keeping expert and director of Mwamuna Agro and Honey Afrique, contributed to this article. Word from the market is a column produced by the Agricultural Marketing Authority to promote market-driven production of agricultural crops. Feedback [email protected] or WhatsApp +263781706212.