Turning Honey into Money

Bee keeping is a venture that has not attracted many investors.

However, the demand for this product locally and internationally explains the dire need for more investors to engage in its production.Dickson Biryomumaisho, Director, Western Region – The Uganda National Apiculture Development Organization (TUNADO)  describes apiculture as the science of bees and art of keeping bees for production of honey, and other hive products using different techniques.  This art can be carried out with or without land.

“One may need as little as10 by 10 metres of land unlike other ventures,” he says.
He adds that the undertaking is a low cost investment liable for all classes of people as little or no capital is needed.

“Hives and other equipment can be made locally and bees are freely available and depend on beekeepers for food,” he says.

The traditional hives include broken pots, woven twig hive or log hives that are hang on trees. However, Biryomumaisho says that it is advisable for the bee farmers to graduate to the modern langsroth hives where unlike in traditional hives where honey is extracted naturally, a honey extractor is needed to harvest honey from this modern hive. Top bar hives are referred to as transitional ones as they bridge one from traditional bee farming to langsroth bee farming.  Langsroth hives are reusable, which could lead to an increase in honey production

“The traditional hives yield between 8 to 15 kilos per harvest whereas one can harvest 20 to 30 kilos from the modern Langstroth,” he says.
bee swarm

The potentially lucrative venture not only requires local materials but doesn’t need a lot of expertise; it can therefore be practiced by the educated and the uneducated. Irrespective of age, gender and economic status, all entrepreneurs can fit.  The venture can be looked at as a source of employment for many. In areas where beekeeping is predominant, people generate income by making beekeeping equipment, processing, packaging and selling bees’ products and extension works. The traditional hive sells between Shs10,000 to 20,000, the top bar hive stands at Shs40,000 to 55,000 while the langsroth goes for Shs100, 000 to 150,000. A bee hives maker can therefore earn a reasonable income. To the farmers, a kilo of honey today sells at between Shs6, 000 and 10,000. Biryomumaisho says such chances have been left for the low income earners therefore narrowing the fruitful sector.
“It can easily be done by all people irrespective of age, gender and social economic status,” he says.Bee keeping also enhances bio diversity and increases crop yields through pollination of crops. The busy insects also contribute to natural resource conservation. This renders bee keeping a non destructive and sustainable activity. Biryomumaisho adds that it can be used as a tool to reduce threats to Uganda’s vegetation particularly natural habitats.“(For instance) national parks, forests and woodlands are an alternative source of livelihood to communities,” he says.However, although they are natural, the apiary expert says that the honey producing insects require a healthy environment to dwell in. A place with vegetation and flowers is favourable because bees can easily pick nectar. It should also be away from noise as noise scares away bees and makes them shift. Marshy areas are risky to bees as they result to fungal diseases. Dirty places are breeding grounds for termites, lizards and spiders. It is therefore advisable to raise one’s hive from the ground. He also cautions that wind is not bees friendly.

While harvesting honey, the harvester needs to put on protective gear to avoid stings from the bees. Smoking might as well scare away the bees from one corner of the hive to the other.

After harvesting, the honey combs are put in air tight buckets to avoid aeration, which makes the honey liable to going bad soon. He cautions that not all honey is worth harvesting but ripe honey.

“When the honey is ripe, the combs cap. However when the combs are not sealed but honey is spotted, it is not ready,” he says.

However, he warns that if left for long, the combs turn black and they are no longer fresh for harvesting.

Although one should keep monitoring to know when the honey is ripe, Biryomumaisho says that bees don’t move during the rainy season, as they tend to make honey at the beginning of such seasons, making it possible to harvest at the beginning of the dry season.

“People mess up when they boil honey combs to extract honey, for they kill enzymes and the natural state of honey,” he adds.
If one uses a honey extractor, on the other hand, the centrifugal process separates honey from combs. One only requires putting the honey into a settling tank from where any remaining debris is removed.

The settling tank has a tap from where honey can be packed.
Mr Biryomumaisho however says that there is untapped potential in bee keeping at a time when Uganda has been given the green light to export honey to the European Union together with Zambia, Ethiopia and Tanzania. He is pessimistic that the product is not even enough for home consumption.
“The (local) market is big and we are still importing honey,” he concludes.

With thanks and acknowledment to Scola Kamau, Kampala.

28 Responses

  1. i got lots of honey but i need a guide on where to get locally made honey extractors or fair pricd processors. thaks for your enlightment.

  2. i have 20 traditional bee hives and need a honey settling tank. any cheap ideas?

  3. Hi am Daniel from kiambu county . i have just started beefarming, i have langstroth hives. After how long should i harvest?

  4. Please apart from the honey what other product can you get from this beefarming and how is it marketable

    • We are not really an advice forum, but other products than the obvious honey, are bee pollen, propolis, royal jelly and beeswax.
      Spend some time researching on the internet how much people pay for these. With regard to pollen and propolis, a tiny machine to fill capsules (like medicines) cost me about 2800/-. You can turn beeswax into cosmetics, because a lump on a supermarket shelf is not worth much. I have made lip balms/salves using beeswax with other ingredients.

  5. help me market my honey

  6. help me sell and produce more honey

  7. We are sellers of natural honey and looking for ready market

    • potential buyer and ready to buy, your contact we do business thanks

      • Hi my name peter am looking for the regular ready market for natural pure honey i have capacity of supplying 1 tone per month.My cell no 0712892953

  8. i have 60 ltrs of pure honey pliz contact me at 0712357676

  9. have plenty of pure honey as per your demand order now

  10. am munyasya from mwingi have alot of where is the market

  11. I do large scale bee farming,my humble request is how can I get market for my honey.thanks in advance

  12. Iam Tulia from WestPokot.Where can i find customers to buy honey in plenty.

  13. Hi;

    I have 30 Langstroth hives in Kitui. I have harvested about 50kg, which am holding in Nairobi for lack of a buyer. Please advice on where I can sell.

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