Inadequate honey production continues to limit the export of this natural and healthy sweet product from Rwanda to the European Union (EU) markets.
In June 2014, Rwanda got accreditation to export the product to the EU after its honey was found to meet required quality standards.
However, low output has continued to deny the country of potential foreign exchange revenues.
Official figures show that in the fiscal year 2019/20, Rwanda exported 3,319 kilogrammes of honey to the EU, generating $14,035 (about Rwf13 million).
In addition, domestic demand for honey outpaces supply.
Rwanda produces 5,600 tonnes of honey every year, less than a third of the national demand estimated at 17, 400 tonnes, according to figures from Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB)
Charles Musoni, Chairperson of Rwanda Apiculture Multi-stakeholders’ Platform told The New Times that; “Some buyers in the EU request that we supply them with 10 tonnes of honey every two months, which is not possible given the current production,” he said.
In order to increase production, Musoni said, the country has to engage its youth apiculture, apply modern bee keeping practices and protect bees from pesticides.
“In the future, we need to respond to such market needs so that we increase exports,” he said.
The scarcity of honey in Rwanda is also driving up its cost.
“People are increasingly opting for honey instead of sugar as they make healthy diet choices,” he said, demonstrating the rising demand for honey.
A kilogramme of honey from bee farmers is around Rwf3,000, while the processed and packaged honey is around Rwf5,000 a kilogramme on the local market.
Factors limiting honey production
Beekeepers say that honey production is constrained by various factors which continue to threaten the population of bees in the country, among them, intensive pesticide use in crops as well as climate change which causes heavy and stormy rains which kill bees.
In addition to that, prolonged drought in some parts of the country leads to the shortage of vegetation from which bees can collect nectar to make honey.
Dr. Solange Uwituze, Deputy Director General for Animal Research and Technology Transfer at RAB, attributed the low output the poor quality equipment used in production, insufficient packaging material as well as the limited skills by beekeepers, among others.
Musoni said that some beekeepers cannot afford modern bee hives as one costs between Rw50,000 and Rwf100,000.
How to address the challenges
In order to tackle the issues of low production and limited honey export, Uwituze said “we plan to increase the production through capacity building of the farmers and improve bee keeping technologies.”
She indicated that the efforts being made to make the apiculture more productive and competitive comprise attracting more private sector investors (including inputs manufacturers).
Others are improving melliferous plant species – plants that produce substances that bees collect and turn into honey.
She added that there is a focus on productivity, health management, and quality and market growth, as well as a more dynamic and skilled labour force.
According to figures from RAB, there are more than 83,000 beekeepers in the country and 465,000 bee hives including 300,000 traditional hives (log hives), 75,000 langstroth hives, and 90,000 top bar hives.Follow https://twitter.com/EmNtirenganya