Dar es Salaam. Tanzanian farmers have started tapping the potentials of stingless bees which, reports show, produce honey that fetches better prices in the market.
Tanzania produced 2.6 million litres of honey, according to the National Sample Census of Agriculture 2019/20 conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). But, only 101,311 litres of those were generated from stingless bees.
It is estimated that only 19.8 percent of farming households engage in beekeeping, according to the census.
The scarcity of that kind of honey has attracted better prices of up to Sh24,000 per litre of raw honey, while the honey generated from sting bees is sold at around Sh10,000.
The stingless bees honey also said to be medicinal, resulting in high demand for it in the market.
“Many beekeepers have not invested in such bees, as many European countries do not recognize it - and is, therefore, not on their honey lists. But if you go to South America and some African countries, it is popular, where it is used as medicine, and it is costly,” said Mr Philemon Kiemi, the chief executive officer of Kjiji Cha Nyuki Co Ltd that specialises in honey production.
Mr Kiemi said his company has developed modern hives for the stingless bees after discovering the market potentials. He added that his company exports stingless honey to countries such as South Korea, and plans are underway to sell in Russia.
The company’s farm, which keeps 460 stingless beehives, is located in Singida, he said. In Mainland Tanzania, the largest share of honey from stingless bees comes from Singida - which accounted for 12.2 percent - followed by Tanga (at 12.1 percent )and Dodoma (9.3 percent).
In Tanzania, the highest price of honey from stingless bees was reported in Tanga - Sh24,551 per litre - followed by Arusha (Sh22,823/litre) and Dodoma (Sh22,502).
Mr Stefano Kileo, a beekeeper in Tanga, said stingless bees-keeping costs more because they like to live in natural forests or caves.
“Sometimes, it is difficult for farmers to get there,” he said - adding that most farmers used to keep sting bees because they produce at higher rates. “But, there is a need to invest in both types because the demand in the market is high. I have not yet started to produce that honey; but I hope to start next year,” he said.
On the other hand, the Tanzania Forest Services Agency’s (TFS) assistant commissioner responsible for beekeeping, Hussein Msuya, said stingless bees often live in protected forests and do not like disturbance.
“They are expensive. For example, if you take them from their natural habitats, you must find a specialist and have a hive where they can stay well. They are also eaten by insects, so if you do not manage well, you will find them all eaten,” he said.
Mr Msuya added that a farmer investing in stingless bees may earn handsomely, as the demand for its honey is high - both within and outside the country. “The amount of honey in one hive can be between half a litre and three litres. But, in their natural habitat, a farmer can get more honey,” he said.