BEE-KEEPING can be a major source of income for Solomon Islanders.
That’s according to Dr Yue-Wen Chen, one of Taiwan’s foremost experts in honey-bee, who had been in the country in the last eight days.
“You have some of the best honey-bees here in the world,” Chen said before he flew back to Taiwan yesterday.
“All you need to do is improve and increase your production,” he added.
“And that’s what I was here for in the last week or so – offering help to bee-keepers to improve and increase their bee-hives and production.”
Chen, a professor at Taiwan’s National Ilan University, was brought in by the Taiwan Technical Mission (TTM) at King George, east Honiara.
TTM has been working with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL) to assist bee-keepers meet the increasing local demand for honey.
Retail price for a 150ml bottle of honey, which used to be $50 some months back, is now between $90 and $100.
This was largely driven by high demand for the product.
During his eight days in the country, Chen travelled to Western, Malaita, and rural Guadalcanal to conduct on-site training as well as workshops for bee-keepers.
More than 100 bee-keepers participated in those trainings.
“What I found is a lot of bee-keepers still used out-dated beehives, which lowers their productions,” Chen said.
“So I showed them new techniques of how to manage and improve their beehives in order to increase their productions,” he added.
Chen said the aim is assist bee-keepers produce up to 20kg of honey per harvest.
“At the moment, their productions were well below that.
“This is why you always have a short supply of honey in the local market.
“If each bee-keeper can produce up to 20kg of honey per harvest, they should be able to meet local demand.”
The honey-bee expert said from observation, honey from Simbo island in Western Province appeared to have the best quality.
TTM does not work alone in this grand effort to increase honey production in the country.
Its work is being done in closer consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL).
Barnabas Keqa is the Director of Livestock and Veterinary at MAL.
He said the ministry sees honey production as part of its food security policy.
“This is why we’ve decided to seek expertise from Taiwan to help in this regard,” Keqa.
“The ministry has been assisting a number of bee-keepers over the years but as you can see, their production was pretty low,” he added.
“We want to see bee-keepers produce up to 20kg of honey in one harvest.
“We are glad that with the expert assistance from Taiwan, this is achievable.
“We hope with the level of training bee-keepers get from Dr Chen in the past days, they should be able to improve and increase their productions.”
For Chen, this may not be his first or last visit.
He had brought back honey samples and propolis or bee glue for quality tests in his university laboratory.
And with TTM honey trainings and workshops set to continue, Chen may return again in the not too distant future to continue sharing his expertise.
By LEOTINA AKWAI