Show me the honey

Le­banese bee­keep­ers dis­cuss grow­ing their in­dus­try de­spite chal­lenges

Executive Magazine - - Front Page - ex­ec­u­tive-mag­a­zine.com

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.

GEN­TLE­MEN BEE­KEEP­ERS

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.

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