Bee-keeping way to go

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ZIMBABWE has over 20 000 beekeepers with the capacity to produce nearly 1 000 metric tonnes of high quality natural honey each year, with a significant impact on the livelihoods of beekeepers and the industry as a whole.

With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in the country being put under lockdown, locals can take advantage of the increased demand for honey to produce the product.

Manicaland-based Doweguru Bee-Keeping Association president Abraham Chaukure encouraged locals to venture into the lucrative industry.

Chaukure is a proud owner of 280 beehives, 60 of which are active, within walking distance from his home.

“I regard beekeeping both as a business and a hobby,” he said.

“I am not formally employed so this is my job.

“I have a lot of hives close to my home.”

Honey is a sweet food substance produced by bees and some related insects.

Bees produce honey predominantly from the floral nectar of plants, or at times from honeydew of other insects.

The variety of honey produced by honeybees genus apis is the best-known type due to its global commercial production and preferred human consumption. 

Over the years, beekeepers have been able to semi-domesticate bees by luring bee swarms to nest in man-made hives that are harvested of the excess honey.

“Honey is collected from wild-bee colonies of domesticated apiaries,” he said.

“Each year, an average colony produces between 27kg and 45kg of honey.

“The honey is stored in honeycombs and there are several methods for removing the combs.”

Chaukure said when harvesting the honey, the sweeper, wearing a veiled helmet and protective gloves sweeps the bees off the combs to collect the honey.

“The beekeeper injects some smoke into the apiary which makes the bees less aggressive and less likely to sting when opening the hive,” he said.

“Thereafter, honey collected.”

Chaukure said a separator board is used to close the ‘honey’ chamber off from the ‘brood’ chamber.

“This forces the bees to move to the brood chamber towards their ‘queen’ through a hatch and not re-enter the honey chamber,” he said.

“The separator board is normally inserted roughly two to three hours before removing the honeycomb.

“In all processes, the honeycombs are then removed from the hive and the honey may be extracted by crushing or using a honey extractor. 

“It is then further filtered to get rid of beeswax and other debris.”

To feed and preserve the colony, Chaukure said approximately one-third of the honey is left in the hive.

Since prehistoric times, honey has been used as both food and medicine as it is very rich in beneficial plant compounds and has numerous health benefits.

In 2020, the US was the largest importer of honey, with a world market share of 24 percent, followed by Germany and Japan with 12 percent and six percent market share respectively, according to Trade Map.

As a trend, the EU is a net importer of honey from Third World countries. 

The increased demand in Europe for honey and the inadequate supplies put exporters from developing countries in a favourable position.

Producing and exporting honey also offers an opportunity to diversify income sources, especially for women farmers.

An opportunity exists for Zimbabwe to take advantage of Africa’s image as a ‘natural’ continent to increase our market share in the organic honey sector. 

Honey offers some ‘sweet’ export opportunities and the global honey market has more room to grow and exhibits a lot of untapped potential across the globe.

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