Show me the honey
Lebanese beekeepers discuss growing their industry despite challenges
Honey might not come to mind when thinking about Lebanese food
products. But Lebanon has a deeply rooted history with the gold nectar; it was even mentioned in the Old Testament.
Though honey production may have receded from the forefront of the Lebanese agro-industry since the days of the Bible, it has garnered increased attention since 2012, thanks in part to international non-governmental organizations. And while a lot of work still needs to be done to further develop the honey industry, the past five years have seen many steps in the right direction.
LOW COST INVESTMENT
Beekeeping and honey production are considered to be businesses with relatively low barriers to entry. Nadine Chemali, technical director of marketing and exports at the USAID-funded Lebanon Industry Value Chain Development (LIVCD) project, says, “Our goal is to increase the income of people in rural areas. Honey is ideal for that, because it’s a low-investment project, and you don’t need to own land.”
Beekeepers in Lebanon move their hives three times per year, according to what is blossoming during that season: citrus trees in the spring, honeydew from oak trees in the fall, and wild flowers and thistles in the summer. Chemali explains that most beekeepers ask landowners for permission to place hives on their property, or work out agreements to share a percentage of the honey produced.
Investment in honey-making is also relatively low: The price of one beehive is just $200, according to the beekeepers interviewed for this article. Given that the current yield of a single beehive in Lebanon is around seven to 10 kilograms, and that honey is sold at an average of $33 per kilogram, new beekeepers can theoretically recoup their investment at a fast rate.
Kafalat, a Lebanese financial company that helps small and mediumsized enterprises obtain loans, helps honey producers access funding from commercial banks. A number of the beekeepers Executive spoke with say they have benefited from this program, which covers part of their initial investment, mainly into beehives, equipment, and small workshops.
In addition to the efforts of international NGOs to promote and grow beekeeping in Lebanon among rural families, an increasing number of personal investors have been developing honey production businesses over the past five years.