By MIRIAM MALAWA
BEEKEEPING, also known as apiculture, has been practised in the country for decades, but, like some industries, has experienced its share of struggles.
It started in the 1940s when beekeeping was used for research purposes.
Later the beehives were established for household consumption in 1960s.
In 1976, under a New Zealand-PNG Government agreement, the apiculture industry was expanded for commercial purposes.
The industry peaked in the 1980s with about 40 tonnes of honey exported to the European market, generating an export revenue of about K20 million.
It then slowed down but was revitalised in 2007 when the Government acknowledged it as part of the livestock sector in the national agriculture plan.
Currently there are two main producers of honey – Highlands Honey Producers Ltd and Mountain Honey.
Mountain Honey founder Kelly Inae, who has been involved in the industry for many years, said it was rural-based and had the potential to be further developed.
Inae started his business in 2006 in Goroka, Eastern Highlands.
He has beehives in his backyard and bottles them for his distributors.
After realising the industry’s potential, Inae branched out into training honey farmers.
Inae said the training was supported by Oxfam New Zealand for honey farmers in Eastern Highlands and Morobe.
“With the help of Oxfam, Mountain Honey trains beekeepers to look after the bees, breed the queen and look after the hive,” he said.
“They produce the honey and sell it to us.”
Inae said bees played a vital role in agriculture because their cross-pollination helped plants to grow and produce food.
“Bees are the angels of agriculture because they provide perfect pollination for plants,” he said.
He said farmers, having that in mind, could boost their crop production when apiculture was incorporated to their farming operation.
It can also generate income for them.
Inae however said the industry needed a lot of support from the Government to push it to the next level.
“Beekeeping is only focused in a few parts of the country and needs to go nationwide if given the right type of support from the Government,” he said.
“Even though we train about 2000 farmers, 300 are given bee-boxes to start from and only 30 are able to sell their honey.”
He said the drop from 2000 to 30 was the sorry state that producers had to put up with.
By MIRIAM MALAWA