Bee farmers in Gulu are in the process of forming a cooperative in a bid to address some of the challenges they face in their enterprise.
There are over 1,000 bee farmers in Gulu district alone, according to Alphonse Acaye, Gulu District Entomology Officer.
“Plans are in high gear to organize bee farmers so that things like marketing improve. Our farmers are currently earning very little for their honey,” Acaye told theCooperator.
Some farmers sell their honey as cheaply as Shs 5,000 per kilogram, but Acaye says they could earn Shs 10,000 or even more if they were united.
Acaye said that with a cooperative, farmers will be able to establish a collection point and bulk their honey before selling it at a fair price.
“We have buyers who would like to buy honey in bulk but farmers are scattered all over the district,” he said.
Michael Okeny, a bee farmer in Laroo-Pece Division, Gulu City, welcomed the bee-cooperative initiative saying it will boost bee farming.
“I want to be able to purchase machines to harvest wax from my bees and add value to make items like candles. I am unable to do that currently because I don’t have the money,” Okeny said.
The bee farmer also hopes that the cooperative can help members push for better honey prices.
“I sell a litre of honey at between Shs 7,000- Shs 8,000 to middlemen but I would like to earn more from it,” he said.
Retailers in Gulu sell a kilogram of honey at Shs 20,000 or more depending on its availability.
Okeny, who has a total of 212 beehives on one acre of land, has turned items like used car tyres, clay pots, tree stumps, and large plastic pipes into beehives.
The 63-year-old harvests at least 400 kilograms of honey every season and is looking forward to increasing the number of his hives.
It is common for retailers in Gulu to add sugar, water, and molasses into honey to increase the quantity and boost their profits.
But Acaye is confident that the quality of the honey will improve once farmers are organized.
“The cooperative will be able to employ a honey inspector who will ensure the quality of the product using a honey refractometer,”
Statistics from Gulu’s Entomology office reveal that 12 tonnes of honey are produced annually by bee farmers in Gulu, a figure Acaye says could rise significantly if farmers adopted better farming practices.
The office, through extension workers, is currently educating farmers on good bee-keeping practices such as when to spray their crops.
“We are eating honey loaded with chemicals because farmers spray their crops while they are flowering. The bees pick up the chemicals when they are picking nectar and this contaminates the honey,” Acaye said, adding that such honey would be rejected if the government were strict in enforcing safety controls.
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