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Jamie Carrahar

Chartered Management Accountant

Month

February 2017

Healing Properties of Honey & International Expansion

Nicola Kelly (BBC News, 2016) reports that honey is perceived to have healing properties in African countries. Such suggestions may result in companies such as Mavis Venderby adopting strategies to expand overseas. Consider the various options of overseas expansion and the financial returns from such sales (including transactions in a foreign currency).

The modern honey hunters of Kenya

  • 22 December 2016
  • From the sectionAfrica
BeehiveImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionBees depositing honey in a beehive

At an upmarket cafe in Nairobi, trendy millennials swipe through their smart phones while sipping glasses of “dawa”, a hot drink made from locally sourced honey, ginger and lemon.

“I drink this every evening before I go to bed,” Immanuel, 26, explains. “It prevents me from getting sick and it calms me down at the end of the day. Honey is like a medicine – it has a lot of healing properties.”

Here in the heart of Kenya’s “Silicon Savannah”, tech-savvy entrepreneurs are beginning to tap into a market that, until recently, was the preserve of smallholder farmers known locally as honey hunters.

A beekeeper stowing wooden trays in a factory.
Image captionThe modern technology being introduced is expected to sanitise the honey extraction method

For them, the introduction of new hives and modern harvesting methods mark an unwelcome shift away from the traditions passed down through the generations.

But entrepreneur Ernest Simeoni says the honey hunters will need to adapt their practices if they are to make the most of the honey industry, now worth more than $12bn (£10bn) globally.

“Honey has become fashionable in Kenya – it’s like a craze sweeping across the country. Many young people here are starting to realise there’s a lot of money to be made from food.”

Technology meets agriculture

Mr Simeoni believes the rise of the middle class in Kenya, coupled with advances in digital technology, have made honey production accessible to a wider pool of people.

“Farming with apps – this is the future,” he says, pointing to more than 20 icons on his phone.

One of the most popular is the “Swarm Database”, an app that provides real-time information and alerts farmers when their honey is ready to harvest. WhatsApp groups are also helping young Kenyan farmers to share ideas and experiment with new methods of honey production.

Beekeeper fetching honey from a barrel in a factory
Image captionModern honey hunter Ernest Simeoni fetches honey from a barrel in his factory

But, Mr Simeoni explains, there are still a number of obstacles to overcome. He says that methods of honey production in Kenya need to be modernised.

“Crude methods of extracting the honey from cavities in the trees, keeping it in dirty containers and over-heating it in refinery rooms – this has a damaging effect on the quality, driving down our profits.”

Grace Asiko from the National Beekeeping Institute, an affiliate of the Ministry of Livestock and Agriculture, agrees that more can be done to tap the honey market.

“It’s a goldmine, ready to exploit. What we need are new innovations to capitalise on the different bee species and variety of plants and herbs we have in Kenya.”

Adding value

Diversifying the ways in which the honey can be used is also an area of potential growth, she says.

“We need people from the pharmaceutical and nutrition sectors to come over and see what we have. Collective effort with innovators will help us to ascertain how the honey can be used to make more products like the face creams, massage bars we have developed recently.”

High up in the Taita Hills of south-east Kenya, nestled among macadamia and pineapple plantations, the picture is very different for Hagai Mwaisaka, a traditional honey hunter.

Hagai is one of nearly two million honey producers in this part of the country.

Beekeeper in the Kenyan mountains checking a beehive
Image captionTraditional honey hunter Hagai Mwaisaka points to the log he uses as a beehive
bee hives
Image captionHoney is big business in this part of Kenya

He points proudly at the log hive – a debarked, hollow tree stump – swaying gently in the breeze in the acacia tree outside his hut.

“This hive was handed down to me by my father and, like him, the honey I produce is a large part of my income. I can say that the bees help me to feed my family.”

Honey hunting is the traditional method of climbing trees, tipping the log hive at an angle and allowing the honey to drip through the combs. It is typically done at night without clothes to ensure that bees do not stick to the fabric and sting the skin beneath.

“At night, the bees are cool. They are not so active, so I can harvest the honey without disrupting them,” Mr Mwaisaka explains.

From this one log hive, 40,000 busy bees will produce 60kg of honey each year. Mr Mwaisaka will be able to sell this honey for $10/kg – enough to sustain his family.

Modernising honey extraction

But this may all be about to change. The new hives being introduced by businessmen in Nairobi mean that honey hunters will soon be required to change their methods, “smoking out” the bees rather than extracting and combing the honey by hand.

For traditional honey hunters like Mr Mwaisaka, the new methods will have a detrimental effect on the quality of the honey.

“The bees travel very far from our log hives to find the best flowers, so the honey is sweet and golden. But with the new methods, the bees get lazy. They produce a lot less and the taste is bitter.”

Honey in glass jars in a factory
Image captionHoney production is the latest money-making venture for businessmen

Unfortunately for Mr Mwaisaka and other farmers in this part of Kenya, there is little that can dampen the spirits of traders and innovators in Nairobi.

Businessman Ernest Simeoni believes the honey industry is the next big money-making venture.

“There is huge potential for the honey industry to grow in Kenya and internationally. We just need to focus on modernising our methods to open up the market. From there, the future looks bright.”

Click here to access the original article.

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Suggestions for Growth in the Beekeeping World

Some interesting background information on the nature of bee farming in the UK that may give rise to a rise in demand for bee hives. Thank you to the Telegraph for their article on the beekeeping industry.

 

‘All the honey is gathered in about 10 weeks a year, when fine weather coincides with abundant flowers. For the remaining 40 weeks or so, the bees eat the honey themselves – roughly 265lb per hive a year. On a good day a hive of bees make 20lb or more of honey – so if you get 60lb a year from just one hive, all that could have been made in three days. You need a week of good weather in July – that’s when you get good honey.’ – suggest the ever increasing focus on being able to produce hives ready for the March – July sales window and consider the impact of inventory building on working capital or the sales mix between slatted or box hives.

‘Beekeeping has been neglected by successive governments over the last 20 to 30 years. There’s a lot of advice out there for farmers and a lot of that advice could be applied to bees. There are 350 members of the Bee Farmers’ Association, but only 150 earn a proper living from bees. It’s 10 times as big in France.’ – suggests that there could well be rapid expansion following changes in government policy towards beekeeping.

This is particularly true at present, when bees are under threat from a variety of sources, from the varroa mite to pesticides, incursions into the green belt and the industrialisation of the rural landscape. Bees, as we all know, are vital to agriculture, and thus to the population as a whole, so it is fascinating to travel with Wainwright up on to Salisbury Plain to enter their world. – consider exploring the application of Porter’s Diamond to consider overseas expansion for basic or advanced factors to stimulate growth for Mavis Venderby.

The beekeeper keeping Britain’s honey industry abuzz

Manuka honey may be all the rage – but what about honey that tastes of the English countryside? Carolyn Hart travels to Salisbury Plain to find out

In much the same way that Sizewell beach in Suffolk owes its rich diversity of maritime plants and seabirds in part to restricted access around the nearby nuclear power station, Salisbury Plain is home to almost 100 species of rare plants and insects by virtue of a large part being owned by the Ministry of Defence and therefore out of bounds to the public.

 

This incongruous pairing of purpose and place is part of what makes Salisbury Plain such an extraordinary landscape – it is the largest area of chalk grassland in north-west Europe, 300 square miles of undulating green folds that have barely changed since the Romans tramped across them on their way to Old Sarum. Today, if you venture upwards on to the bits of the plain that are still accessible, you will find yourself – almost uniquely in this country – enveloped in a vast silence broken only by birdsong and the hum of a thousand bees.

 

In so far as it is possible to tell a bee where to go, many of them are here because of David Wainwright. Wainwright is the chairman of the UK’s Bee Farmers’ Association and keeps bees all over the country, including in 10 lots of hives on Salisbury Plain, from which he supplies wild-flower honey to Marks & Spencer.

 

He grew up in Tring, a suburban boy fascinated by wildlife – ‘Insects and things that lived in ponds,’ he says. He studied biology at the University of Sussex, where he kept bees at his digs, along with a wasps’ nest that he had captured by anaesthetising the inhabitants. He stored the wasps in his bedroom, feeding them raw meat, and must have been enormously popular with his fellow lodgers.


Inside one of Wainwright’s hives (Ben Murphy)

After university he met a bee farmer, Alan Berkeley, and decided he wanted to follow in his footsteps. ‘He was a mentor; he inspired me,’ Wainwright says. ‘I wanted to be a beekeeper with 100 hives.’ Having acquired his hives and learnt how to manage them, he saw an ad in a newspaper looking for a beekeeper to train people in Zambia, and set off with his wife and child to Kabompo, ‘in north-west Zambia, where everyone was already a beekeeper. I was supposed to be training them in British beekeeping, but they were very skilled, using their own traditional methods, and didn’t need to know about British bees. What they needed was a market in which to sell their honey.’

Wainwright created that market, selling the honey in Germany. In 1990, when his by now two children reached school age, he came back to Britain to set up Tropical Forest Products. The company imports African honey, including products of Ethiopia and Cameroon, which arrive in vast drums and are packaged in Wales.

This is still one of his main activities, carried out in tandem with travelling around the country checking on his bees. ‘The population of bees is down to human husbandry,’ he says. ‘We need amateur beekeepers – and there are more of them now – but we also need more bee farmers.

‘Beekeeping has been neglected by successive governments over the last 20 to 30 years. There’s a lot of advice out there for farmers and a lot of that advice could be applied to bees. There are 350 members of the Bee Farmers’ Association, but only 150 earn a proper living from bees. It’s 10 times as big in France.’

This is particularly true at present, when bees are under threat from a variety of sources, from the varroa mite to pesticides, incursions into the green belt and the industrialisation of the rural landscape. Bees, as we all know, are vital to agriculture, and thus to the population as a whole, so it is fascinating to travel with Wainwright up on to Salisbury Plain to enter their world.


David Wainwright on Salisbury Plain (Ben Murphy)

Life slows down as we drive through a Ravilious landscape, bumping along between banks of cow parsley and buttercups, poppies, elderflower and wild rose in an elderly car whose pockets rustle with dead bees, to visit one of Wainwright’s bee colonies.

Eventually we reach a cluster of 24 hives set among stretches of field beans overlooking steep valleys of chalk full of wildflowers. On windy days the bees go down into the valleys to gather pollen, but today we can hear faint humming among the beans, which increases in strength as we approach the hives. ‘Some bees are more irritable than others,’ Wainwright says. ‘You can sometimes get one very irritable bee, but you can calm them with smoke.’ Bangs on the hives and jolts upset them.

Wainwright makes his own beehives – all in different colours so that the queen can find her way back to the right hive. Amid the constant, and now much louder, hum of bees, he opens up one hive, brushes off the dead drones (the allotted lifespan of a drone is two to three months) and reveals sheets of beeswax in wooden frames.

Bees bring in pollen attached like bags to their legs to feed the infant bees or maggots in their honeycomb cells – it takes three weeks to go from egg to bee, and the cell is sealed over before the bee emerges to enjoy a life of work. Pollen comes in different colours depending on which flower it is gathered from, and it is divided up accordingly in the hive – one honeycomb cell for poppy pollen, one for clover and so on. Bees are some of the most studied animals on the planet, but the reason the pollen is divided in this way is still something of a mystery. ‘We should know a lot,’ Wainwright says, ‘but we’re always finding out more.’


Salisbury Plain, Suffolk (Ben Muprhy)

Bees navigate using magnetic fields and search for pollen within a four-mile radius; most pollen is gathered one mile from the hive. The nearer the crop they are the better. ‘We try to put the bees next to the crop so that they don’t waste time and energy flying,’ Wainwright says. ‘Honey is their fuel – they use honey to fly to and from the hive.’ They are very susceptible to the weather. ‘They like sun, not much wind and a reasonable moisture level – if it’s too wet or windy, they can’t do anything.

‘All the honey is gathered in about 10 weeks a year, when fine weather coincides with abundant flowers. For the remaining 40 weeks or so, the bees eat the honey themselves – roughly 265lb per hive a year. On a good day a hive of bees make 20lb or more of honey – so if you get 60lb a year from just one hive, all that could have been made in three days. You need a week of good weather in July – that’s when you get good honey.’

Wainwright’s hives are arranged like stacks of boxes, each containing 10 combs. The queen and the developing bees stay in the bottom box and the honey is in the top boxes. At the end of summer, Wainwright removes some top boxes, leaving enough for the bees to live on for the rest of winter and into spring. On average he can gather 100lb of honey per hive, but the national average is lower.

Wainwright owns 700 hives and moves them around the country according to the locations of different crops. ‘You wait until the evening to move them,’ he explains. ‘When the bees are quiet, block up the entrance to the hive and take it to wherever you want it to be – say a field of borage. You can see them in the morning, emerging. They know they are in a new place; you can see them learning where the crop is, re-orientating themselves, and by 9am they’ll be working hard. You can see if a bee is excited by a crop because they dance on the combs inside the hive – a waggle dance.’


‘Beekeeping has been neglected by successive governments over the last 20 to 30 years.’ (Ben Murphy)

Salisbury Plain is particularly good for bees because of the diversity of the plants – many types of clover, cow parsley, daisies, vetch, orchids, sainfoin. Wildflower meadows produce a lot of honey with a faint cinnamon flavour from the sweet clover. Natural landscapes such as this are vital for the bees, but farmers could help too, Wainwright says, ‘by planting margins with nectar-yielding plants. But there needs to be a plan to help redevelop the bee industry.

‘The Bee Farmers’ Association has set up an apprenticeship scheme open to 16- to 24-year-olds – there are beekeepers with a lot of knowledge that needs to be passed on to a younger generation before it’s too late. There’s a lot of talk about small-scale beekeeping, but nothing on the larger scale. We should be developing the bee industry as a whole.’

Despite much media fuss to the contrary, Wainwright thinks that bee health is pretty good. ‘It’s not the end of the bee, for sure. The varroa mite is just one thing in a long line of problems. But the mites aren’t getting up to high levels, and bees are becoming resistant to them – the amount of treatment needed is reducing, and these days quite a lot of keepers don’t use anything. Nature balances itself out – it’s self-correcting.’

Wainwright’s 700 hives provide six different types of honey: Welsh wildflower honey, Welsh heather honey, Shropshire spring honey, Shropshire summer honey, Salisbury Plain honey and borage honey. ‘Each type has its own properties, derived from the plants it’s made from rather than the bees that make it. For example, some honeys have antibiotic properties, which are good for wound infections.’

Conducting a tasting of all his honeys is revelatory – each has a distinct flavour. The Salisbury Plain version is suffused with the scent of wildflowers and grasses, with a faint cinnamon edge. It is delicious, a world away from the strong African and manuka honeys that have grown so popular – the nostalgic taste of an English summer.

 

Click here for a copy of the original article.

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