A beekeeper holds out a section of a beehive. Pic: Supplied
By Soe Sandar Oo
November 15 - 21, 2010
MIGRATION costs – required to shift hives closer to flowerbeds – are threatening the honey export business this year, bee experts say.
Myanmar Apiculture Association co-secretary, U Kyi Lwin Oo, said the cost of moving beehives to different fields is threatening to overwhelm the profits from selling the honey.
At the same time, the demand for Myanmar’s honey from abroad is strong, with the amount exported on track to better last year by 50 percent. However, a weak dollar means the earnings aren’t likely to be significantly higher, U Kyi Lwin Oo said.
“Beekeepers aren’t really expecting to earn big profits because the cost of transporting hives is quite high,” he said.
By early November, companies had exported about 800 tonnes of honey, worth about US$740,000, since the start of the 2010-11 financial year in April. For the whole of the previous fiscal year only 1000 tonnes, earning slightly more than US$900,000, was exported.
The current domestic price of 1 viss (1.6 kilograms or 3.6 pounds) of honey is between K1200 and K1400.
At this time of year as many as 90pc of beekeepers keep their hives in Kani township, in Sagaing Region. But soon some will migrate to southern Shan State or Meiktila in Mandalay Region to bring their bees in reach of the sesame crops.
In February and January they will move on again to Katha, Kale, Monywa, Htigaing or Madaya.
These relocations make up a large percentage of the costs of production, U Kyi Lwin Oo said.
“Seventy percent of the total costs of producing honey comes from moving the bees to new fields. This year our exports are worth less and the transport charges have risen. I’m worried that if this situation continues then we will see a dip in production,” added the general manager of Welcome General Trading.
Part of the problem is that beehives cannot be driven by bus or truck to many of the fields the bees feed on, leaving the keepers no choice but to hire ox-driven carts.
Bees also have a limited flying range – only about 2 miles, or 3.2 kilometres – and need to be moved to a fresh field every week, Welcome General Trading’s general manager said.
Production also relies on the weather: Heavy rainfall can reduce the amount of pollen the flowers produce and in turn curtail the amount of honey.
Companies typically export as much as 90pc of all the honey produced here, selling it to Thailand, Japan, China, Singapore and Malaysia. This year Thailand is buying the majority, he said.
Myanmar’s honey also has too much moisture in it to compete in many international markets. This year’s exports have about 20pc moisture content courtesy of the heavy rains, whereas the international standard is below 20pc.
Honey is exported in drums that weigh between 250 and 290 kilograms each.
U Kyi Lwin Oo Oo said that if producers here were able to minimise their transport costs, boost production and lower the moisture content of the honey they would find ready markets nearby, pointing out that Japan consumes at least 20,000 tonnes of honey a year.