All for the honey

> Tai­wan bee­keep­ers bat­tle to cash in on the pure liq­uid gold for a grow­ing mar­ket of healthy-con­scious con­sumers

The Sun (Malaysia) - - FEATURE -

va­ri­ety of flavoured honeys, in­clud­ing lon­gan, ly­chee and melon.

He has di­ver­si­fied to pros­per, sell­ing pro­duce from other lo­cal bee farm­ers as well as his own.

There are 10 Bee Farmer shops around Tai­wan but the com­pany sells mostly on­line through its Chi­nese-lan­guage web­site, a more mod­ern ap­proach than most tra­di­tional bee­keep­ing fam­i­lies. The busi­ness brings in T$50 mil­lion (RM6.64 mil­lion) each year.

“In the past, farming vil­lages were iso­lated. When you pro­duced honey you didn’t know where the cus­tomers were,” says Huang.

“Now with the in­ter­net, with brand­ing, pack­ag­ing and a cor­po­rate im­age, it’s much eas­ier than be­fore.”

Building a bee brand has helped Huang off­set the chal­lenges of bad weather and poor bee health, both of which have af­fected his farms.

Huang, 61, be­lieves in­breed­ing af­fected the bees’ sense of di­rec­tion and has since de­vel­oped a method of iso­lat­ing the best pairs. That has meant his hives have not suc­cumbed to ill­nesses that have killed so many bees world­wide, he says. De­spite the pres­sures, his son Chun-yen, 33, who helps run the busi­ness, says there are still keen young bee farm­ers who con­sider it a good op­tion in the face of Tai­wan’s eco­nomic stag­na­tion. “Young peo­ple can’t find jobs that pay well,” he says. “As the value of bee prod­ucts is high, young peo­ple go to farming vil­lages to learn to keep bees and de­velop their ca­reers.” For Jiang in Hs­inchu, look­ing af­ter bees means more than just busi­ness. He sees it as a global is­sue, key to en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and food pro­vi­sion. “Al­most one-third of hu­man food re­lies on bee pol­li­na­tion. Bees play an im­por­tant role in the eco-sys­tem,” he says. Mean­while, he does his best to de­fend his own hives against what­ever na­ture throws at them. “We be­lieve we have to work hard first, and then heaven will help us,” he says. – AFP

The Bee Man ... Huang from Tai­wan’s Bee Farmer cafe and ed­u­ca­tional cen­tre shows off some of the bees at his farm, which pro­duce fruit­flavoured honeys.

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