Depressed rainfall blamed on climate change has is the cause of declining honey production in Mwingi, agriculture officials say.
Consequently, honey prices have gone up this year as drought continues to ravage the region. Bees have migrated to other areas in search of water and flowers.
Last year, a kilogramme of honey was retailing at Sh550 but it has now gone up by Sh250.
Despite the dwindling honey production, Kitui County is building refineries in Nguni and Mui in Mwingi Central to help farmers process, package and sell their produce at competitive prices.
Kivou Ward Agricultural officer Joseph Munyao said the construction was almost complete.
“Bee farmers will no longer be exploited by middlemen and other traders. They will not sell their honey at throwaway prices. The refineries will help them control their sales, based on demand and supply,” Mr Munyao told journalists.
He urged bee farmers to form market clusters to sell their honey rather than doing so at individual outlets “since this will lead to better price bargains”.
The officer said the devolved government had deployed extension officers to offer practical guidance to farmers on the best ways to keep bees and reap maximum profits from their honey.
He added that despite close to 60 per cent of Mwingi farmers keeping bees, just 20 per cent benefited from the honey venture since many lacked knowledge on how to manage their hives.
“Honey production supports many families in Nguni and Mui,” Mr Munyao added.
“Honey is medicinal. It has chemicals that treat chest pains. The wax has many other uses.”
NO LONGER PROFITABLE
Mwingi Beekeepers and Food Crops Co-operative Society manager Simon Kimelia decried the high cost of transport to the market.
He said farmers were abandoning honey production as it was no longer profitable.
Mr Kimelia said seasonal challenges also affected the quality of honey produced.
“Honey production is dependent on seasons. During the dry and hot season, bees migrate to cool and wet environments. This leaves the farmer without honey,” Mr Kimelia said.
He added that during such times, area farmers could not compete with counterparts in Kitui Central.