Farmers learn skills to improve honey yield

Farming

THE apiculture (honey bee) industry in Papua New Guinea is one important agriculture activity that needs to be fully supported.
There is enormous potential for the development of the honey bee industry, however, it needs more support in terms of funding and resources.
Many existing and intending honey bee farmers throughout the country, especially in the highlands region, have been approaching relevant government agencies such as the Department of Agriculture and Livestock to seek assistance. Farmers do need more technical advisory assistance in relation to pest and disease, better production techniques as well as appropriate equipment and budget support.
DAL’s Director for the highlands region, John Jave, says recently there is growing interest among farmers to go into honey bee production but, the greatest hindrance is the initial capital investment required.
It used to cost K500-K660 to own a three-storey hives from which honey can be harvested.
With current foreign exchange issues, this cost could now go up to between K600-K700 depending on where the suppliers of bee equipment are sourcing their supplies from.
Consequently, farmers need more help from DAL, provincial administrations, local MPs and other stakeholders.
Technical officers from DAL and its partners in the Bee Team (EHP DAL, Farmers rep and industry rep) have been conducting Basic Beekeeping training under user-pay arrangements for the last 10-15 years.
Interested farmers, given the appropriate support, can lift the apiculture industry to higher level.
Currently, with the little support to Apiculture in a form of salaries for technical staff (DAL and Provincial DAL), who conduct training and other follow up extension activities, the honey produced wholly by small holder farmers is processed and marketed in stores by 3-4 processors based in Goroka.
This, compared to some commodities that get a lot funding support, but with no evidence of such a support on the shelves, indicates the potential apiculture has, if given more support.
He said the demand for local honey is around 200 tonnes annually, while the current local production was around 50 tonnes per year.
There is a gap of about150 tons which the local producers can produce, thereby reducing imports.
Jave said apart from funding constraints, bio-security issues are also threatening the industry.
The incidence of varroa mite and the tropillaelaps mite has had a drastic impact on honey production.
Both mites co-exist in most bee hives, and have a parasitic relationship with the bees which leads to the gradual decline of the bee population and can lead to total demise of the colony if not controlled through use of chemical or management strategies.
Despite such constraints, dedicated apiculture extension workers from both government, industry and non-government organisations have assisted farmers to manage their hives in various ways.
This is for efforts in dealing with the tropillaelaps mite.
For EHP, the Administration gave a funding of K10,000 in 2015 to treat the mites in all bee hives in the provinces.
This was executed in partnership with CIC, NAQIA, Farmers, Industry reps and EHP DAL.
Following the treatment, leading up to this honey season 2017-2018, extension activity has been on advising farmers to follow strictly the honey bee management calendar of activities.
This emphasised the need for farmers, at designated months of the year, to amongst other practices, feed bees during dry months, replace old queen bee with new one, install chemical strips at the proper time to reduce mite population, installing additional boxes when bee population and activity increases and maintaining general hygiene of the apiary.
“Other advanced farmers have been advised to try new ideas on reducing cost, while maintaining honey production.
“A farmer who has tried out such new ideas has shown promise, by producing a frame that has been weighed in at 7kg. This frame will at yield at least 6kg of honey after extraction. This is high compared to getting 3-4kg of honey under current standard practices.
“This particular farmer has also managed have up to 5 boxes in a hive with at least 3 of the boxes filled with sealed honey frames. This farmer and other such serious and innovative farmers are having a bumper crop this year.”
The major processors in Goroka will confirm that this honey season (October 2017 – January 2018) has been a good year for bee keepers, based on the purchased of honey from the farmers.

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