Rwanda beekeepers who are exporting their product to the European market are already experiencing high demand of the raw fresh honey, official reports said Sunday.Rwanda honey is unique for coming from tropical equatorial forests lush with eucalyptus and other trees that make the bees’ product natural, making the honey low-residual and impurity-free.
Since 2012, the European Union gave Rwanda the go-ahead to ship the product directly due to the country’s chemical-free beekeeping practices.
Reports from the Government’sNational Agricultural Export Development Board, indicate t that in the fiscal year 2019/20, Rwanda exported 3,319 kilogrammes of honey to the EU, generating $14,035 (about Rwf13 million).
According to the chairperson of of Rwanda Apiculture Multi-stakeholders’ Platform, Charles Musoni, beekeepers are currently struggling to sell their products overseas and meet domestic demand at the same time.
“We have hard-working beekeepers across the country but our biggest challenge right now is the limited productity,” Musoni told APA in an interview.
According to him, Rwanda has until recently a competitive advantage with some incentives where it was easier to transport the produce to international markets.
“But the prolonged drought in some parts of the country have impacted upon bees, with honey shortages,” he said.
Concern over the impact of changing climate on various farming activities and on beekepers has reached the highest levels of government in Rwanda.
Although the Government has granted in 2018 the right to beekeepers to use state forests for farming activities as part of strategies to boost output and avert the shortage of honey in the country as a move to boost productivity, honey production has continued drop from 5,000 tonnes in 2016 to 3,500 tonnes in 2017, according to statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources.
This annual production, less than a third of the national demand estimated at 17, 400 tonnes, according to officials figures.
In order to increase production, stakeholders are emphasizing the mobilisation of farmers to apply modern bee keeping practices where many people have been placing their beehives in their small crop fields, which has not been productive enough.
“We hope to increase exports bu using state-owned forests, to do bee farming on larger areas whereby our bees will have many trees to forage on, and the bees would no longer be killed by pesticides,” Musoni said.
In order to tackle the issues of low production and limited honey export, the Deputy Director General for Animal Research and Technology Transfer at Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) Dr. Solange Uwituze said the mindset change for beekeepers is important in the use of modern equipment used in production
“Current large farms allocated by the state for beekeepers can help them to do bee farming on larger areas whereby our bees will have many trees to forage on, and the bees would no longer be killed by pesticides,” she said.
Official reports indicate that Rwanda has more than 83,000 beekeepers and 465,000 bee hives including 300,000 traditional hives (log hives), 75,000 langstroth hives, and 90,000 top bar hives.
However, low production is the major reason why local bee farmers have not effectively tapped into the European export market, agriculture experts said.