There is certainly potential in honey production for farmers, just need to ensure that they get the necessary support – particularly in terms of technical advice and basic start up costs such as bee hives and related equipment’s.
Solomon Islands has the perfect conditions for commercial bee farming given its largely virgin, organic, lush forests. These are places where a profitable honey industry could flourish through proper training and support.
Judy, a 43-year-old vegetable farmer in North Guadalcanal, says that she is keen to start honey production, but only if she gets some support:
“I know many people in my area are looking for alternatives to vegetable gardening, we know there is high demand for honey and beekeepers can make good money.
“The only thing is we do not know is how to start and who can assist us.”
Judy says that most of the farmers she knows are illiterate and are scared to approach government departments or other agencies for support.
“What I would like to suggest is that people just come to us and show us how to do it, if we see how to start a honey farm than we can do it. So maybe just organize some sort of training in places close to us, and we will attend.”
“There’s a shortage in supply of honey in the local market,” said Ed Vona, a local honey supplier in Honiara. “The price of honey is therefore high, currently one bottle sells for SBD$50-SBD$60 dollars.”
He says that it is important not to flood the market with honey by introducing large numbers of new farmers.
“It is a skill and one need to be committed, so what should happen is that government helps current farmers to expand their business, that would be a good start,” Ed said.
“And it is important to control the quality of the honey, so maybe test those farmers that get support, make sure they are not adding anything to the honey.”
Ed says that it is important to learn from mistakes, stating that in the past beekeeping was largely run by NGOs, which set up rural communities with basic equipment and then leave.
He says that with basic training it was difficult to keep the honey farm going; “and not long after that the beehives and bee farming equipment’s were sold for cash or left to rot.”