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Beekeeping Value Chain

Aug 15, 2020

A market study with potential COVID-19 impact analysis 

Honey has been a source of income for hundreds of thousands of people across Yemen. Honey goes into the main dish of many Yemeni meals and contributes to food security in the country. This value chain study looks at the market actors in eight districts in Abyan, Hajjah, Hodeidah, Lahj, and Taiz. The study objectives were to identify the current challenges and opportunities among the value chain actors in these targeted locations. The study is to inform ERRY II programming and assist in identifying areas for improving the value chain. Data were collected via surveys, focus group discussions, and key informant interviews. A separate executive summary report describes the study methodology and sampling strategy.

There are prospects to make honey business in Yemen more resilient. A million Sidr trees need to replace the cut ones to improve bee pastures. Unfortunately, the Yemen crisis did not only make firewood business a livelihood opportunity but also reduced the amount of honey that can be produced and therefore caused the loss of thousands of jobs and potential exports. In addition, the study found that not only that bees are affected by climate change when rain falls offseason, but they also have to avoid toxic pesticides.

Huge profits are made by those exporting honey to Gulf countries. Yemeni honey has a favourable consumer preference among these rich countries, and their demand continues to be high. However, due to lack of regulations, some traders mix Kashmiri honey with Yemeni honey to increase profit, which is about to ruin the reputation of all Yemeni honey. This becomes very important as there are no local specialized honey centres or laboratories that can assure quality before exporting. Yemen tandardization, Metrology and Quality Control Organization (YSMO), the quality regulators in Yemen, need resources to develop such certification and quality measures to save the reputation of Yemeni honey.

Knowledge sharing among value chain actors is a significant challenge for such a high speciality product. Actors who trust one another make exceptional profits, while those who are not in the loop may lose their income. Beekeepers are not part of organized associations and may never know why their production is low or where to  seek help. While many beekeepers would like to expand, they are not targeted by financial institutions to access capital, rather targeted by exporters who capture most of the profits. Consumers who demand quality honey have to trust retailers’ words as no quality brand exists in the market. According to one exporter, “I myself have to know the beekeeper to know the quality. I had to send samples to Saudi Arabia and the USA to test them before I ship.” Only four labs exist in Yemen, and they are not good enough for honey testing according to an exporter.

Yemeni honey is famous for its quality traits. The local demand for honey is high, even though most local consumption is imported. Regulators are interested to support the honey value chain. Value chain actors make a decent income that can support their household needs. Just like every other business in Yemen, transportation and security measures are increasing the cost. A honey beekeeper indicated, “we used to move to Hadhramout to capture their pastures in the season, now it takes a couple of days to reach there, my bees won’t last until I arrive”.

Supporting youth and women who have experienced working in beekeeping with several beehives can be valuable development effort. With an investment of less than USD 600, the money can be returned in one season. This has to be linked to community knowledge exchange and access to vets and supplies within pasture rich areas. Beekeeper associations need to contribute to quality assurance, linkages with wholesalers and Microfinance Institutions (MFIs), and value chain development.

Production is done in a very traditional manner and lacks basic tools and equipment. Retailers spend on their distribution outlets to build trust with consumers who purchase unbranded speciality products. The unbranded product suffers unequal margins with the potential of lost reputation. Producers are the key actors to production and yet have the least business development methods of production, storage, linkages and distribution.

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