Globally, the apiary industry is growing into a multi-billion dollar sub-sector, attracting foreign exchange earnings for many countries.
Statistics shows that the world’s beehive stock rose from 50 million in 1961 to about 98 million in 2019. In the United States of America, about 109,799,366.60kg of honey worth $24,200,000.00 is produced each year. Australia produces 18,375,000.51kg of honey and exports 5,898,313.08kg worth 900,000 pounds annually
In Africa, Ethiopia produces an estimated 500,000 tonnes of honey and 50,000 tones of bee wax, generating over $10m yearly, while Tanzania exports about 750,000 pounds worth of honey. Rwanda is also well ahead with certification for European Union (EU) markets.
Regrettably, however, the apiary industry in Nigeria was, until recently, unexplored and domestic need is met largely through importation. The value chain was mostly underdeveloped and most products adulterated.
Every year, more than N3bn worth of honey is imported into the country because until recently, beekeeping as a commercial venture was largely underdeveloped in the country despite the various advantages and ready markets for most of its value chain products.
Until the last few years when honey production was brought to the fore to increase farmers’ income, small scale farmers using primitive technology were the major actors in the country’s apiculture industry.
In view of the country losing huge foreign exchange, the Federal Government, through its agencies, stepped in to reap the benefits of the industry since the country has a huge potential to be the leading producer and exporter in Africa.
With increasing growth in domestic consumption of honey, the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture gave honey development a national agricultural commodity development priority in order to promote its sustainable development as an agrobusiness.
The ministry, for instance, gave 20,000 beehives to farmers in 2018; and the Bank of Agriculture (BOA)also stepped in with funding for the smallholder farmers in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The RMRDC has put in place various initiatives to gradually increase production of honey bee products by overhauling its value chain and the development of beekeeping for honey and other beehive products production for industrial use in the country.
The DG RMRDC, Professor Ibrahim H. Doko, said the major component of the council’s initiatives included capacity building on different aspects of value chain development. These include boosting of honey bee and production, packaging and marketing in line with global best practices.
He said one of such major initiatives is the Farmer-Farmer Capacity Building programme, in collaboration with the Winrock International Institute for Agriculture Development, United States of America.
The programme was able to create awareness on modern beekeeping techniques for higher productivity in areas of hives establishment and colonies management at the National Agricultural Extension Research and Liaison Services (NAERLS), Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Abia State; Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State; Plateau State Agricultural Development Programme (ADP), Jos; Bauchi State Agricultural Development Programme (ADP), Bauchi, and the Rivers State Agricultural Development Programme (ADP).
“The RMRDC also collaborated with Mrs Ann Harman, a volunteer from the US to conduct a farmer-farmer training programme on queen bee rearing techniques in various parts of the country. As a follow-up to this, the RMRDC, in collaboration with Winrock International, hosted a training workshop on sachet honey packaging for beekeepers, processors and other relevant stakeholders.
The council collaborated with Professor Conie Louise Falk from the New Mexico University, USA, to conduct a detailed study on honey marketing. The study revealed that manufacturing companies in Nigeria use sugar in place of honey due to scarcity of the commodity.
It also revealed that honey is being smuggled into Nigeria from neighbouring countries, and that consumers preferred honey to be packaged in small quantities for home use.
To consolidate the findings, a survey was also carried out to evaluate consumer preferences in Abuja and parts of the North Central states, in collaboration with the Winrock International. The survey revealed that consumers in Nigeria prefer yellow, clear honey packed in smaller quantities for affordability,” he stated.
According to him, as a follow-up to the survey, the council designed and developed plants for processing. Six of these were distributed among honey producing farms and institutions in Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones. This was to enable beekeepers send their harvest for processing in line with global best practices.
As a fallout, the RMRDC collaborated with the World Association of Industrial Technological Research Organisations (WAITRO) to hold a stakeholders’ capacity building programme for the improvement of the quality of honey bee products in October, 2018.
To promote increased productivity from the beehives, the Council conducted R&Ds on rearing of native queen bee for commercial beekeeping in Nigeria. This was undertaken at the Centre for Bee Research and Development, Ibadan, Nigeria to enhance local capacity for production of queen bees. Likewise, the Council collaborated with the CEBRAD to host the Nigeria Biennial Bee Conference (NIBEECON).
Furthermore, to improve the quality of beehive products for export, the Council has continued its effort by collaborating with the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), Nairobi, Kenya and ApiTrade to facilitate the setting up of a satellite station of the African reference laboratory for honey testing in Nigeria.
Professor Doko said with the Council’s initiatives, local production of quality honey products had increased substantially. Also, the number of beekeepers, processors and marketers has increased in the country. This has resulted in an increase in production of quality beehive products in line with global best practices.
Nigeria’s honey is now well accepted in the international market. The country has also acquired the capacity for identification and management of bee diseases.
“Nigeria now exports honey products to other West African countries while importation of honey products is gradually declining. In the next few years, honey production in Nigeria will not only be able to meet local demand, the country would be able to export honey in substantial quantities to other countries, apart from those in West Africa, for generation of foreign exchange,” he added.