By Simon Deng
The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) is linking up with partners in a bid to harness South Sudan’s honey and make it lucrative on the international market.
South Sudan is home to a huge production of honey but without value addition, a breakthrough on sales in the world market remains difficult.
According to Matata Safi Juma Khamis, the Executive Director of Hagana Processing Co. South Sudan Ltd which buys and processes honey in Juba, focus is on harnessing the honey sector by reforming, mainstreaming and making it market oriented.
“A lot of honey is being produced but we cannot ascertain how much honey is produced, the country has capacity to produce tonnes in a given year,” Matata told a breakfast meeting of partners at the UN house in Jebel on Friday.
He said an export of 600 kilos of liquid honey to Japan in 2020 demonstrates the opportunities South Sudan can tap into its “developing nascent honey sector.”
Hagana plans to establish a 500-tonne capacity honey refinery center in the country, Matata said.
The company buys honey from Eastern Equatoria, Yei in Central Equatoria, and Western Equatoria states.
“South Sudan has huge potential in terms of honey production in places like Raja, Wulu in Lakes, Northern Bhar El Ghazel and Jonglei. We have a lot of forests and bees need huge forest where they can be able to connect nectar and produce honey out of it,” he said.
James Wani, the UN FAO Natural Resource Manager said honey production has very direct contribution towards poverty reduction in rural parts of the country.
“When farmers are able to get income from beekeeping activities, this income can be used for purchasing food, and that’s how farmers engaged in beekeeping can address food-deficit in the country,” Wani said.
He noted the need for intervention to improve honey output including training of farmers and providing them with modern equipment.
According to FAO, most of the beekeepers in the country are unorganized, small-scale collectors mainly with traditional bee hives and lack modern knowledge on collecting, processing and packaging of honey.
“Most of the farmers are using traditional bee hives and these have their own challenges that compromise the quality and quantity that farmers can get from the hives,” Wani said.
Christopher Nzuki, the Chief Executive Officer of the Hive Group, said South Sudanese farmers need to be taught skills to help them produce honey that meets international standards.
He said his team has already worked with beekeepers in Rumbek and Wulu areas respectively.
“We are sure that we can add value to what the farmers are already doing by showing them and by working with them all the way from the beekeeping itself to the production of honey and wax,” Nzuki said.
“The world is short of honey and we are looking for honey to export. Currently we are looking for 600 tonnes in the region and we cannot get it, yes, the farmers are producing but the way they produce the final quantity it is not available to us because they use methods like over smoking, crushing the comb inside the honey and finally the product they get is a mixture that is not really available for international trade,” he said.