Briefly explain what apiculture is?
If you talk of apiculture, what many people think of is honey, but honey is not the key thing as far as apiculture is concerned, the main advantage of apiculture has to do with pollination and since Nigeria is now moving towards agriculture, what we should be talking more about is how to improve the quality of our harvest and how to increase the quantity of our harvest, if agriculture is going to succeed at all, then bees should be an important tool that we must focus on.
Bee is the natural pollinator that has been put in place to pollinate crops that will have good quality yield that will also increase the quantity of harvest. The population of the world is not stagnant, it is multiplying year by year and if we must be able to provide enough food, the harvest from our agriculture must also be growing as our population is growing and the only way it can grow is to look at the bee aspect. The bee factor will reduce the use of pesticide thereby improving the quality of our harvest.
Talking about honey, what exactly is happening in the subsector?
The greater quantity of honey produced in Nigeria are probably from traditional bee keepers who will just identify a bee colony in the wild kill the bees and take out the honey by method that is not too good, either by putting fire or by smoking them out, either of these is damaging the honey, and is killing the bees.
So when they get this honey, in order to make more money, they tend to adulterate the honey and sell by the road side, so if we focus on how to improve the livelihood of these traditional bee keepers, then we should be getting more quality honey from them. And how do we improve their livelihood? By training them on modern bee keeping techniques and ensuring that what they are bringing to the market is of good quality.
Our company is packaging 75 tons of honey today, we engage the traditional bee keepers to provide ready market for their honey, it means they have to produce to our quality, so that whatever we are packaging is acceptable to the consumers, so we give them the specification of what we need, supply so much quantity, at the end of the day we buy it from you if it meets our specification, the little way we do this is to provide them with standard hives train some of them and provide them with tools that they could use in ensuring that the quality of honey is good enough to be sold.
If my company packaging 75 tons of hone per annum, and the highest producer in the world is packaging about 2000 ton per annum, how long will it take for us to reach that climax if just one company is producing 75 tons, and we are able to train and bring in more stakeholders to begin to package honey, then we could shoot above the world producers of honey, and a litre of honey is about N1800, a litre of petro is N140, so it is obvious that if we focus on honey we may not be talking about petrol again, it is a question of getting our acts together.
What has honey production contributed to the economy?
So far we cannot say it has contributed anything to the country’s GDP, we are just trying to work out a way that it will begin to contribute, that is after we must have improved the method of processing the honey, it will start contributing to the GDP of the country, but I cannot say that there is anything honey is contributing presently.
But machines we are using in the honey processing is fabricated locally, we just got a sample of imported one and we try to modify it to suit the kind of hives that we are using because the hives we are using presently cannot meet the standard or the production level of imported equipment, but we to migrate from the Kenyan tall bar to land strut, we can now bring in imported hives and see how we can do a copyright and start fabricating them.
What are the major challenges honey production is facing?
The major challenges are lack of government policies in place, no legislation in place to protect the bee keepers and if that is overcome, we will begin to have training for rural farmers who will be able to add boxes to their farms, and if farming is increasing, you can imagine every farmer having two or three bee hives in his farms and increasing it gradually, you can imagine what quantity of honey we will produce in this country, because the more they see there is a ready market for honey, the more they will begin to also increase the number hives that they have, so we need government backing, to protect bee keepers and training of rural farmers.