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The specialist international beekeeping organisation

Adding value to bee products

Beekeeping can be a lucrative income-generating activity which is an important reason for promoting it.  The beekeeper derives income from selling the products harvested from the hives. The best known primary products from beekeeping are honey and beeswax. However, pollen, propolis, royal jelly, venom and the bees themselves are also marketable products that derive from keeping bees.

Most of these products can be used in the original state in which they are produced by the bees, although some do not have a large market until they are processed into a suitable form for consumers to buy, or are added to other ingredients to make new products. Products containing one or more primary bee products are called value added products. Sometimes these are referred to as secondary products but in practice this expression may be better used for products such as candles which simply change the form of a primary product such as beeswax. Even buying honey in bulk and packing it into smaller containers, such as bottles, for retail sale is a form of value addition and is a technique frequently utilised by small shop and stall owners worldwide. Adding value allows a producer to gain a higher price for the products they are producing, to diversify their product range or to make a product saleable where previously it didn't have a market. Occasionally, rather than generating a higher price, the new product may become the preferred purchase of a consumer giving the producer an advantage over competitors.  The ideas for bee products are only limited by the imagination and marketing skills of beekeepers themselves.

Beeswax is a good example of an area where adding value can be helpful. Beeswax can provide a beekeeper with worthwhile extra income yet it is often neglected as an income generating resource because there is no immediate market for the product even when it is processed into a large chunk of wax. One reason for this can be that buyers want to buy beeswax in large quantities, in tonnes, while producers may only have kilos to sell. In this case, the best way for the beekeeper to maximise the harvest of beeswax is to make it into a more saleable product. Beeswax remains a versatile bee product and can be used, for instance as an ingredient in many cosmetics, creams and ointments as well as in candle making or batik work. Learning to convert beeswax into candles or ointment allows the beekeeper or his family to maximise income from a primary bee product that might otherwise be discarded.

While some value added products need advanced manufacturing technology or sophisticated ingredients, many can be made on a small scale and the beekeeping entrepreneur is encouraged to understand the products that are being harvested, to research local markets, to experiment with methods of producing nice products, and to calculate production costs to find out which products might offer an income advantage or form the basis of a new business idea.


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