Do you know beekeeping and honey business in Africa has huge potentials?
Honey is the most popular natural sweetener in the world and global trade in bee product is worth millions of dollars every year. Due to its diverse use, the worldwide consumption of honey is so huge, its supply barely matches its demands.
Africa consumes more than three times the amount of honey it produces. Aside Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania who produces most of the continent’s honey, other large markets like Nigeria and South Africa have a lot of unmet demand for bee product.
Beekeeping is an ideal “home based and low-capital” business for African entrepreneurs. This article, therefore, seeks to explore the business opportunities in apiculture, various uses of products, the global market for bee products, species of bee best used for rearing and the constraints militating against the success of apiculture as a business.
Beekeeping as an agroforestry practice has not been given much attention in our country. There is increasing demand for honey in Nigeria and the world at large, but the business of apiculture is still relatively very low.
This is saddening because apiculture is one of the most lucrative business that has no negative impact on the environment. Improving the honey production through beekeeping will be a sure way to add market value to the Nigerian economy.
Bees are flying insects popular for their role in the production of honey. However, not all bees produce honey and as you will soon find out, honey is not the only lucrative product of bees.
Bee products are used in various foods and also enjoy extensive use in several industries including: medicine, food processing, industrial manufacturing and natural healing.
Honey bees are social in nature and often live together in large, very organised and sophisticated communities called “colonies”.
A colony of honey bees may have up to 100,000 bees that are divided into three main groups (known as castes).
Bees are naturally attracted to flowers because of a sweet substance called “nectar” that they feed on, and as a result, produce honey and several other products from nectar.
Bees are extremely important in the pollination of plants. This simply means that without bees, most plants would hardly be able to produce any fruit.
Honey, beeswax and other products were harvested from bees living in the wild using very crude and unsustainable techniques.
How then can money be made from bees?
The value of global trade in honey and other bee’s products is over $600m every year. Most people seem to think honey is the only valuable product bees make.
Well, you’d be amazed to know that the Honeybees produce up to six different high-demand products used in a range of industries from food processing to medicine, they are: honey, bee wax, Propolis, pollen, bee milk and bee venom.
We shall take a look at these products and their lucrative potentials in the Nigerian market.
Revenue from bees: Honey is the sweet-tasting juice produced by honeybees, popular for its taste and flavour.
Due to its natural sweetness and chemical properties, it is preferred over processed sugar and other sweeteners used in baking, beverages and foods.
In medicine, honey is used as a sweetening agent for children’s drug and the treatment of sore throat, cough, hay fever and burns.
It is also used to produce cleansers, lotions and creams in the cosmetics industry and used as a nutritional supplement for children, athletes and people suffering from diabetes.
Honey is in high demand because of its numerous uses, it’s also a ready market for animal feed and also used to increase milk production in dairy cows. Honey is also used in chemical industries where it is used to produce mice and rat repellent compounds.
Revenue from bee wax: Beeswax is a wax material produced from the honeybee’s body. Most people who keep bee wax are unaware of its economic benefits and often discard it after harvesting honey from bee’s hives.
Lot of craftsmen and manufacturers still spend a lot of money importing beeswax which can be produced locally.
Surprisingly, beeswax has much wider use than honey. It is used in food processing industries as an additive and a common ingredients in chewing gums.
It has much wider use in the skin care and cosmetic industry as it has been found to be better than petroleum jelly in making products like lipsticks, lip balms, eye shadows, blush, hand creams, moisturizers.
Beeswax is also commonly used to make shoe and furniture polish, and has been used for centuries to make candles. Above all, beeswax never goes bad and can be heated and reused over and over again.
Beeswax has over 100 industrial uses and is widely known to have a ready market both at home and abroad.
Revenue from Propolis: Propolis also known as bee glue, is a sticky substance collected by bees from leaves, buds and sap of certain trees.
Bees then use this to fill cracks in their hive, to steal the entrance hole when it is too large, and to keep the hive clean and free from diseases and parasites.
Propolis possesses several properties that make it very suitable as an antibiotic and antifungal agent in the pharmaceutical industry. It is also used in natural medicine to treat various conditions, including inflammations, viral diseases, ulcers, skin burns and scalds.
Revenue from pollen: pollen is basically food for bees. It is a powder-like material found on flowering plants that is collected, eaten and stored by bees in honey comb cells.
In many developed countries, pollen is used in some expensive dietary supplements, since it is believed to have valuable medicinal properties.
Revenue from royal jelly or bees’ milk: Royal jelly is a special substance produced by worker bees and fed to the queen bees.
Tidies show royal jelly to be a good source of vitamin B. Like pollen, it is thought to be medicinal in nature and is used in certain expensive dietary preparations. It is consumed more in Asia than any other part of the world.
Consumption of royal jelly in China alone is over 75 tonnes annually. In fact, China makes royal jelly chocolate candy and wines, as well as lotions and tonnes for natural healing.
Revenue from Honey bee venom: Bee venom scientifically known as apitoxin, is used by the bees as a defensive weapon to protect the colony from intruders and attackers.
This substance is responsible for the bee’s painful sting and is produced in the abdomen of worker bees who defend the bee colony.
Bee venom is used in medicine as treatment for rheumatism and other joint diseases due to its anti-inflammatory actions. It is also used to desensitize people who are allergic to bee stings and insect bites.
Revenue from pollination services: Pollination services are fast becoming a decent money maker for beekeepers.
As we mentioned earlier, bees play a huge part in helping plants to produce fruits. As orchard owners, plantation farmers and vegetables farmers work to increase the size of their harvest, beekeepers are getting paid to locate their beehives within orchards, plantations and farms so the bees can do their magic.
This is a trend that is likely to grow in the coming years as farmers strive to increase their yields. African beekeepers Ltd is another shining success in Africa beekeeping. The company produces hives and all the essential kits and equipment for the beekeeping business (including honey extractors and centrifuge machines).
How to Start Your Own Beekeeping and Honey Business in Nigeria
Now that we have explored the world of honey bees, the potential of bees, the potential of bees products in Nigerian markets and the inspiring examples of some Africa’s successful beekeepers and business, we will explain the major steps in starting a Beekeeping business.
Step 1: You need to acquire some knowledge and skill in beekeeping. While beekeeping can be a simple activity, it’s important that you can learn the skills and acquire the knowledge that allows you to manage bees in a modern way.
You need to know how to attract a swarm of bees to your hive, how to feed them, how to harvest honey and other bee products, how to avoid bee diseases, the types of equipment you should use, how to avoid getting stung by the bees and all other dos and don’ts of the business.
There are beekeeping training programs organised by government Agriculture department and NGOs across Africa. But if you can’t find one, it’s not a problem at all. There are several good resources on the internet that can give you all the information you need to get started.
Step 2: Get the required equipment for beekeeping. To get the best results, it’s important to use right type of equipment for your beekeeping business.
The hive, a wooden box used to keep the bees, is the single most important piece of equipment you will need because it allows you to manage the bee colony and determine the volume of honey you will harvest.
While hives can be bought ready made from bee equipment suppliers nationwide, you can also get a carpenter to make it for you as long as you have the right specifications; these specifications are very important and you are likely to get very poor results if some measurements are too small or too large.
Other important tools and equipment include protective clothing, gloves, long boots, feeders, a small knife and a couple of other basic equipment.
The beekeeping and honey business in Africa is very promising and a relatively less competitive market. For centuries, honey bees have served human demand and this continues until present time, and has grown larger in size.
The huge gap between Africa’s consumption of bee’s products and available supply presents a lucrative opportunity for entrepreneurs to exploit.
Beekeeping is easy to start, requires very little capital (compared to other business opportunities) and can be run from home.
We would love to hear from you about your successes, challenges, advice and questions.
Do not forget to leave a comment in the section below and share this opportunity with your friends.
Written by Oyediran Gbemisola