Honey: Rwanda targets international market

According to RARDA, the national demand for honey will increase from 1,600 tonnes in 2006 to 13,800 tonnes by 2020 Rwanda has potential to produce and export honey but the sector is still unexploited and still working in isolation, officials have said.
Unbranded, natural honey products from Rwanda. (File Photo)
Unbranded, natural honey products from Rwanda. (File Photo)

According to RARDA, the national demand for honey will increase from 1,600 tonnes in 2006 to 13,800 tonnes by 2020

Rwanda has potential to produce and export honey but the sector is still unexploited and still working in isolation, officials have said.

Dr. Theogene Rutagwenda the Director General of Rwanda Animal Resources Development Authority (RARDA), said Rwandan honey, if well produced, would compete on international markets because it is organic.

Honey is produced in Bugesera Eastern Province, Byumba and  Rushaki in Northern Province and in Gikongoro Western Province.

In 2007, new markets for Rwandan honey were identified in Middle East, especially in Qatar and Oman but the market could not be sustained. Both quality and the quantity produced remains insufficient.

Dr. Rutagwenda said that strategies are in place to organize the sector, a move that will help shift from the traditional way to modern techniques of honey production.

In a move to transform bee farming in the country, RARDA jointly with different NGO’s are involved in capacity building for the sector.

Many people were trained in modern technics and through cooperatives equipment were distributed. The equipment distributed includes 12,000 traditional beehives and 9000 modern beehives.

Rutagwenda said that they have conducted a survey which revealed that many bee-keepers lack the necessary skills and modern equipment to effectively adopt better skills.

A traditional beehive produces 7 kilograms while a modern one produces 45 kilogram.

“Through an organised structure, we intend to shift from traditional way to modern bee farming,” Rutagwenda said. Most bee farmers still use fire and smoke to produce honey.

National Honey was established to monitor, organize and supervise farmers to work under a certain framework.

The sector is challenged by lack of current production figures, but information from RARDA indicates that the national demand for honey will increase from 1,625 tonnes in 2006 to 13,789 tonnes .

Bee keeping was and still is part of Rwandan culture where families   produce for only home consumption. Bee Keeping could be a source of revenue to rural households and a means of fighting poverty.

The bee keepers in the country will further be assisted by rehabilitating areas where honey is processed before it is taken to the market including filtration so that it fetches high prices.

Honey is often used as a remedy for a number of diseases such as asthma, hypertension, flu, and diabetes.

In 2005, the total world honey production was valued at 1.2m metric tonnes with a market value of around $452m.

China is the leading producer of honey in the world. It produced 54,000 tonnes in 2004 and over 68,000 tonnes was expected in 2008.

In Africa, Zambia is the leading exporter of honey, followed by Ethiopia.

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