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Zimbabwe’s honey farming industry – unlocking Africa’s agricultural potential through innovation

Lisa Koch
November 17, 2015

Posted in Agriculture Southern Africa Blog post

As investment in African agriculture grows, local small-scale producers have the potential to go beyond satisfying local market demands and look to global markets. Investment in agriculture will have a direct benefit on other industries including pharmaceutical, retail and wholesale markets, as one commodity often has many uses and its supply may affect a multitude of markets.

Bee honey farming in Zimbabwe – opportunities for investors

Bee farming is an up-and-coming industry in Zimbabwe. Global Industry Analysts Inc predicts that this year honey production globally will reach 1.9m tonnes. According to the BBC, global demand for honey continuously exceeds supply, and pure honey is becoming an expensive commodity. In the US, the price of honey is increasing more than 6% annually. By 2015 the market globally is projected to hit $12 billion.

Not only sought for food consumption, honey is an important raw material in the production of cough medicine. Honey and wax are also used in cosmetics such as soaps and hair products. As an industry that is relatively affordable for local farmers to start up their own business ventures, bee honey farming reflects a new opportunity for investors.

Competing with international products

In order to compete globally it is crucial that production meets international standards. The European Commission has stated that the EU will assist developing countries in meeting international standards so that African agricultural products can be increasingly traded on global markets. Experts predict that the honey industry, for example, will became a major foreign exchange earner for Zimbabwe if the honey that is produced meets those standards.

Innovation

Investing in new techniques can create a superior, more marketable and ultimately more profitable commodity. ‘The Kenyan Top Bar Beehive’ technique is being advocated by The UK charity Practical Action, which is purchasing bee hives for low income families in Zimbabwe. The technique does not disturb the bees and results in a purer honey product which can be sold for up to a third more than honey produced by more traditional methods.

Growth opportunities

In 2013, agriculture accounted for 65% of total employment and 32% of GDP in Africa as a whole. Zimbabwe’s figures are slightly lower but its president has been adamant that agriculture in Zimbabwe is a growth sector. Bee keeping and the production of honey in Zimbabwe is an example of small-scale local farming initiatives that have the potential to grow and satisfy international demand, and investment in innovative techniques is crucial for this sector to grow sustainably and competitively. Investors who see the potential and opportunity in countries such as Zimbabwe are key to this innovation.

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