Honey: Yet untapped foreign trade commodity

Ethiopia  stands out when it comes to the number of bees  in Africa. Though  the nation has huge potential it has not yet  benefited much. Still, it is in a traditional way the over 90  per cent of  the country's honey is  produced.

Yes, it has been recognized  that honey is a potential commodity  which could generate foreign currency as much as coffee. Besides, it  is one ofincome generating  means for Ethiopian farmers.

Also, recent studies throw light on Ethiopia's huge honey producing capacity  annually. But, currently, the nation does not come up with satisfactory yields in order to ensure  poverty reduction and economic transformation.

Surprisingly, honey has been proved one among nations' livestock and fishery  products which have managed to penetrate the European Union markets. Ethiopia has been listed as a Third Country permitted to export honey and beeswax by the European Commission since 2008.

Ethiopia exports honey to Germany, England, Norway and into different countries.  But there is a call to assure quality. To keep the  quality of honey, training will have  to be given not only for  beekeepers, but also for those who are involved in the sector. Producers, exporters and processors, and other stakeholders should have common  ground. The country needs to stay in the EU market.

However, to stay in the EU markets sustainably and rise the nation's foreign currency earning, a broad array of active participation is needed, starting from farmers up to processors and exporters. Ethiopia has to ripple new technologies countrywide and come up with honey in quality and quantity. Thus, to export quality and quantity honey products, joint actions have to be mounted by the government and all role players in apiculture. We have to train farmers, introduce new technologies and supply inputs and sensitize them to produce honey in quality and quantity.

Apart from farmers, a great role in quality of yields as well as product and productivity is expected from private investors and processors to stay in the foreign market competitively.

Most importantly, apiculture is environment friendly. It chimes in with  nation's  green economy strategy. Natural and watershed management areas could be devoted to apiculture. The engagement could create thousands of job opportunities for women and youth. We can make honey one of the instruments for economic growth. Therefore, transferring technology and filling skill gaps necessitates attention.

Reportedly, nation's honey export performance had deceased during 2015-16, due to drought, illegal marketing system, adulteration among others impacts. Hence, to make up for the previous years' export drop, multi-sectoral approaches should be mounted. Of course, the government has given huge emphasis to introducing modern technologies, training, availing inputs, involving the youth and women on conservation works and watershed management.

Definitely, Ethiopia can generate foreign currency close to coffee from honey. This would definitely support poverty reduction effort thereby hastening economic development. To this end, hurdles in the sector have to be thoroughly addressed and multi-sectorial approaches should be put in motion. It is a huge potential sector, if bottleneck are well treated, we can improve honey production and productivity within a short period time.

Furthermore, by improving beehives, the country can increase its honey production as the nation is harnessing only 10 per cent of honey resource. However, promoting honey production has multi-purpose importance besides generating foreign currency. Framers and honey processors have to be supported in getting better market opportunities.

During GTP II, efforts are underway to reach out more farmers with modern honey production technologies, breeding and distributing plants which have wide geographical distribution, innovating new and simple technologies, among others.

However, the current environmental degradation due to various climate change among other reasons, like deforestation, expansion of farming lands for crops, improper chemicals utilization, deforestation and human activities, among other, have made bees' life hazardous. In fact, they have a great role in environmental conversation and plant crossbreeding.

However, the absence of legal marketing framework and laboratory facilities, capacity limitation such as lack of finical resources for actors, access to improved technology, dearth of inputs, supply chain as well as global environmental change are among the problems witnessed.

In sum, as the nation is trying to expand agricultural products for foreign trade, honey can be a potential one to generate considerable amount of earnings. Thus, the government need to attach special attention to the sector and of course to actors to penetrate the global market competition.

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.