Bee farmers in Amudat district in Karamoja sub region have appealed to the government and any well-wishers to provide them with a honey processing plant in order to boost their income through value addition.
Paulina Cherop, one of the bee farmers in Loro Sub County in Amudat district, explained that they do not earn much from their honey business because they are forced to sell it unprocessed.
“One kilogram of unprocessed honey is sold at Shs 10,000 and Shs 30,000 for the processed. We are being cheated by buyers who takeour honey cheaply since we don’t have the machine to process it,” she said.
Mathew Lopong another bee farmer from Acoricori village in Amudat Sub County said many people in Amudat are moving away from other types of farming and embracing bee keeping which, he says, is not so labour intensive.
“The venture has been lucrative for me; it doesn’t have much work like weeding in gardens, and is easier than poultry which requires feeding and treating birds. Bees look for their own food and you only provide a water source for them and prevent bush burning,” he said.
Betty Chapal, another farmer, said she started the project with only 10 beehives but now has 300 beehives, 290 of which are colonized and ready for harvesting. She, too, says the inability to process her honey negatively impacts on her profit margin.
“I would have earned Shs 20m from the honey that I will be harvesting next month if it was processed, but now there is no machine, I will get much less,” she said.
Gloria Apio, the Principal Entomologist in Amudat district, said most families in the area have turned to bee keeping due to unreliable rainfall for crop production in the district
She also acknowledges the need for government to set up a processing plant in Amudat so that farmers can process and package their honey.
“Our farmers just sell the honey after harvest to Kenya and we lose the by-products that can be got from honey such as shoe polish, wax, candles, and jelly,” she said.
Other by-products of honey include propolis, royal jelly, medicine, soap and others. Honey is also known to have medicinal value and can help to improve cholesterol levels in the body.
Apio said last season Amudat district produced up to 9,000 kilograms of honey which was sold to Baringo in Kenya.
“This honey was packaged as ‘Baringo honey’ and yet it is from Amudat district in Uganda,” she said, adding that if a processing plant is put in place, Amudat could produce up to 40,000 kilograms of honey in every season.
Masokonyi Waswa the Chief Administrative Officer, Amudat district, said he has directed that more funding under the district’s production budget be allocated to beekeeping.
“Our honey was tested in Europe and declared one of the best honeys in the world,” he boasted.
Meanwhile, Francis Kiyonga the district LC V Chairperson said he has written several appeals to the ministry of agriculture requesting that a honey processing plant be constructed in Amudat, with no success so far.
He said about 2,000 people have ventured into bee keeping after finding it profitable.