Beekeepers urge government to curb adulterated honey
Beekeeping is arguably one of the most sought ventures in the country.
The sector is gaining momentum, as farmers realize bee products fetch a lucrative market.
However, the sector is faced by numerous challenges just like other businesses with the actors in beekeeping lamenting the honey market dominated by counterfeit products.
In an interview with the Nairobi News during the Agri – Africa Expo and Conference 2023 which ended on May 12, 2023, Mr Frankline Gikunda Founder and CEO Happi Foods Farms Ltd, a Meru County based company dealing with honey production, raised an uproar over the menace.
“The business is one of the most lucrative, but it has been invaded by ‘entrepreneurs’ who are selling honey not extracted from bees,” Mr Gikunda said, warning if the challenge won’t be curbed the growth of the sector will be derailed.
Gikunda ventured into beekeeping in 2013, a business that has been profitable until the threat of adulterated honey cropped up.
The beekeeper was among the exhibitors who graced the first edition of the Agri-Africa Expo at KICC, Nairobi showcasing different types of blended honey and various bee products.
Urging the government to come up with stringent measures to streamline the sector, he cautioned that if an immediate action would not be taken consumers will continue being hostage to substandard honey.
The challenge threatens beekeepers who supply genuine products, Gikunda lamented.
“They are selling counterfeit honey at a lower and cheap price, hence locking out the genuine producers,” he explained, complaining over the stiff competition posed by the invaders.
His statement was also echoed by Lydiah Muthoni, from Lancel Investments Ltd, a honey and value added products supplying online company in Nairobi.
“The competition is too high, and penetrating the market is not easy since customers are keen on honey,” Ms Muthoni stated.
The company has apiaries in various Mt Kenya Region counties, namely; Embu, Meru, Murang’a, Nyeri, Kiambu and Laikipia, operating with a total of 350 beehives.
Apart from honey production, Happi Foods Farms Ltd and Lancel Investments also process bee products such as wax and propolis (a compound produced by bees thought to fight infections, healing wounds, and viral diseases), a niche that is gaining momentum.
A kilo of pure processed honey retails from Sh700.
The Directorate of Livestock Production at the State Department for Livestock Development, however, acknowledges honey counterfeiting.
In an interview with the Nairobi News, Mr James Muriuki, in charge of Apiculture, said the adulteration of the bee product is not only a local problem but cuts across the globe.
Just like other sectors in the food value chain, honey is also marred with fake products, Mr Muriuki said.
“Lack of stringent measures regulating the sector has paved the way for impure honey. Regulatory agencies such as the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) should tighten its regulatory framework and crack the whip,” he urged.
Though Kebs has set standards for bee products, fake honey is still sold in supermarkets and other shop outlets.
“We have good standards, but the problem is enforcement.”
Mr Muriuki added that the issue of fake honey has persisted for long, saying concoction of bananas, molasses and corn syrup are some of the ‘raw materials’ used to dupe unsuspecting buyers.
Honey production in the country currently stands at 18, 000 metric tons per year.
The bee product has recorded a decline, compared to what the country used to produce 10 years ago, 25, 000 metric tons per year.
Mr Muriuki said the drop is as a result of harsh climate change effects such as drought and change of weather patterns.
Humans have also contributed to the decline through cutting down of trees and use of harmful pesticides and herbicides by farmers.
Local production is unable to meet high honey demand.
Beekeepers are advised to adopt value addition and processing of bee products, as the niche fetch a lucrative market.
The four days Agri – Africa Expo and Conference theme was “Using Information to Power Agriculture in Africa.”
The agricultural trade fair was organized by Agri-Africa Exhibitions Ltd, in partnership with strategic stakeholders such as Kenya Climate Innovation Centre (KCIC), Nation Media Group among others.