Following destruction of the entire bee population by parasites in the 2000s, the Solomon Islands has now restarted its honey production, and has its sights set on the export market.
Producers in the Pacific islands – particularly women – are accessing apiculture commercial opportunities through training, and the provision of beekeeping equipment. Since 2015, nearly 700 hives have been distributed to farmers, and 140 small producers have been trained in hive management and other apiculture techniques, such as breeding queens, as well as good business management.
Supported by the Solomon Rural Development Programme (RDP  ), the Solomon Islands Small Business Enterprise Centre (SISBEC) has played a pivotal role in relaunching apiculture through such training and equipment provision across the archipelago. According to the Ministry for Development Planning and Aid Coordination, this assistance has helped generate average revenues of €13,000 per year for the Solomon Islands, which equates to around €1,430 per producer. Between 2016 and 2018, honey production grew from almost zero to more than 1,100 l, mostly sold locally.
In the 2000s, the Solomon Islands were producing enough honey to consider exporting a portion, thanks to the hard work of 2,000 beekeepers with over 400,000 hives. However, the introduction of Asian bees carrying the varroa parasite brought the sector to its knees.
Almost 15 years later, “Most of the producers sell their honey to an intermediary who then conditions it for selling on to wholesalers in cities,” explains Rodney Suibea, a SISBEC member. As the primary intermediary in the sector, SISBEC guarantees an outlet for small-scale producers by purchasing their honey for between 40 and 50 Solomon Islands dollars (SBD) (€4.40 – €5.50) per 350 ml. “At the moment, honey production is around 4-5 t per year and this cannot meet local demand,” adds Suibea. Despite this, SISBEC is projecting production of 10-15 t by 2020/22. “The honey could then be exported. We have tested the New Zealand market and have confirmed that there is a market for Solomon Islands honey there.” According to Suibea, the honey is also appreciated in Japan.
“SISBEC will soon be signing up all of the apiarists to the Australia New Zealand Bank GoMoney programme (an online bank managed through an app), which will allow SISBEC to purchase honey from producers through their GoMoney account. SISBEC will also be creating buying centres for producers who do not currently have access to local shops [to sell their produce],” confirms Gabriel Hiele, manager of the RDP agricultural section.
The most spectacular progress has been made by the Gizo Women in Business Organisation, also supported by SISBEC, which brings together more than 300 producers from Gizo Island. One such member, Janet Beri, currently earns SBD 42,800-48,150 (€4,700 – €5,300) a year through the sale of her honey. “My husband and I are villagers who work on our little plot in order to survive,” says Beri, who has 10 hives. “Now we are able to sell honey and make ends meet. We can easily cover the school fees at the start of each semester and send our other son, who left school a long time ago, on a business course in a professional training centre.”
 The programme is supported by IFAD, the World Bank, Australian Aid and the EU.