It has been recently revealed by the ministry of agriculture that the cost of importation of honey by the federation is so expensive and despite this fact, very little investment and few hands are involved in the business sector.
According to reports, the ministry of Agriculture disclosed that Nigeria spends over $2bn annually on the importation of honey.
A principal laboratory scientist at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), By name Ogundele Olubukola, has been selling honey in the last 10 years, harvesting an average of 150 litres of pure bee honey monthly with just 85 hives. An average litre of the honey is sold for N1,200 and despite high price, more people seem to be more interested in honey than sugar consumption.
“The market is growing, at least judging by the demands we are having. Yes, honey sells once your customer knows you are selling the original,” Mrs Olubukola said.
She further disclosed that employment potential of the honey business is such that a honey farmer could combine the trade with day job. A perfect example is
Elumezie Ifeanyichukwu, a biochemist who has been in the honey business for three years while also maintaining his professional job.
In her opinion, as more Nigerians increasingly become health conscious, so does the market for honey expands, and the income that accrue to honey farmers.
Moreso, it has been well proven by Health experts and dieticians, about some of the benefits of honey which include better cholesterol and improved immunity. They also claim that honey purifies the environment by aiding the abundance of fruits, nuts and seeds through pollination, while also being a revenue spinner for the government through job creation.
“My experience for three years shows that each harvest from one hive with a healthy colony gives between 15 to 20 litres of honey. Though I started with only one hive, the one I was empowered with. I now have 23 hives,” he said.
Twenty-five years ago, Dagunduro Gideon started as a honey farmer with 20 hives. Today, he has expanded the hives (a structure that houses the honeybees) to 2,000.
According to Danguduro who happens to be the president of Grassroots Beekeepers in Nigeria, the production capacity of his farm is five tonnes every year. His Gwagwalada apiary, revealed to news source, PREMIUM TIMES, pure raw honey harvested from the hives tied to one of the trees. The buzzing from the bees and the smoke repellents showed how tedious the energy needed for the trade.
He said that there is a high demand for the commodity, just as there is room for more beekeepers. In affirmation, Gideon Adebayo, a trained modern beekeeper, and Joanna Raymond an agriculture economist, stated that: “Honey farming is a lucrative business. If you invest in it, there’s a lot of products in beehives.”
The Nigeria’s honey sector, is seriously underutilized and despite its large market size, it seems to be short of producers as evident in a report published in December 2018, by ministry of agriculture showing the expenditure if over $2bn annually on the importation of honey.
However, Chinyere Akujobi of ApiExpo Africa lamented this trend as unacceptable given the untapped potential in the honey business in Nigeria
“The opportunity in beekeeping is huge as Nigeria spends billions of naira annually to import the commodity,” she said.
Meanwhile, speaking on the way forward, Mr Johnson Oluwaseun, an entomologist, and the public relations officer, Youth for Apiculture Initiative, suggested in an interview that the government has a big role to play in making the sector viable.
“The first facet is legislation. There should be legislation that is supportive of the industry. Nigeria doesn’t have a beekeeping policy, and especially those involving insecticides that affects the growth of bees.
“There is a need for orientation, a private entity cannot do this. For instance, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Ministry of Environment can set out projects for honey hunters in villages and for modern beekeeping that does not involve the killing of the bees,” he said.
Furthermore, he pointed out the fact there is no Nigerian university that offers Entomology (study of insects) at an undergraduate level, arguing that it was important that beekeeping be taught to encourage its practice.
Honey is produced in two ways. It is either organic or conventional. To produce organic honey, a policy of government is required, the national president of the federation beekeeper’s association of Nigeria, Bidemi Ojeleye, said.
Mr Ojeleye, who is also the founder of the centre for bee research and development, Ibadan, added that the organic honey is needed to be produced within 20 to 25 metres radius where pesticides and other chemicals are not used at all.
“That is why the government should reveal some areas for beekeepers in Nigeria, and make use of those areas. But if its conventional, nothing happens to it, unless you infuse into it, then you have to declare the content you infused into it,” he said.
Adulteration of products is also a big challenge faced by the honey industry and this concern has reduced the demand for honey by consumers as faked products are passed off as original.
The only way to tackle this however is the rudimentary methods of checking for authenticity like using matches flame and water to identify whether or not the honey is adulterated, though a biochemist, Samuel, said those methods are not often reliable.
“Unhealthy management of the hive can lead to bad honey especially during harvest. If honey is harvested with the larva it can lead to contamination. It will have an alcoholic odour and taste. 90 per cent pure honey should give a strong itchy sensation in the throat,” he said.
Gift Joseph Okpakorese