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