Apiculture involves the raising and care of bees for commercial or agricultural purposes. Honey production is being leveraged as a sustainable economic activity in the country for the consumption of honey remains highly popular. As far as Mauritius is concerned, 90 percent of its consumption, that is 300 tons, is imported.
Local honey production has increased from 27 tons in 2020 to 30 tons in 2021 and 2022. Honey has found another niche market in the wake of increased awareness on the importance of bio food. Indeed, apart from being a culinary delicacy, it remains a highly consumed commodity because of its medicinal benefits, antioxidant properties, as well as its antibacterial and antifungal power.
The targeted local honey production for 2023 is 33 tons. Besides, boosting local honey production is aligned with the national strategy of promoting local production to achieve the goal of consolidating food security. Government has once again highlighted its resolve in Budget 2022-23 to boost the local capacity for honey production to cater for local consumption as well as promoting it as an income-generating opportunity. Bee keeping has indeed been embraced as an economic activity by various entrepreneurs and is even considered a secondary source of income for smallholder farmers.
As at date, Mauritius counts 625 registered beekeepers who take care of a total of 3 500 bee colonies. There are currently three bee zones in Mauritius. They are located at Petit Sable, La Ferme, and Bras d’Eau. Another key advantage of beekeeping is its contribution to the pollination of plants which contributes to the increased production of vegetables and fruits.
In order to boost honey production locally, a series of Governmental aids have been extended to beekeepers, as catered for in Budget 2022-23. Beekeeping is also undertaken for the production of wax, propolis, and Royal jelly.
The Apiculture Section of the Entomology Division, which falls under the aegis of the Ministry of Agro-Industry and Food Security, is responsible for the promotion of apiculture. It caters for the training of beekeepers and provides for advice on construction/procurement of bee hive, purchase of bee colonies and offers general advice on bee keeping.
The Ag. Assistant Director of Agricultural Services and Principal Scientific Officer at the Apiculture Section of the Entomology Division, Preeaduth Sookar, along with other technical and scientific officers, offer a wide array of advice on beekeeping and hive management to registered beekeepers.
Budgetary measures geared towards boosting local beekeeping activities are, namely: A one-off grant of Rs 150 000 per beekeeper is provided to secure the bee keeping zone; A grant for the acquisition of CCTV camera to bee honey producers; Grants of up to Rs 100 000 for the purchase of beekeeping equipment beehives, bee colonies, hat and veil, smoker, bee wax foundation sheets and hive tool; The Development Bank of Mauritius is now providing loan to an amount of Rs 100 000 at an interest rate of 2% p.a. to registered beekeepers for the purchase of beekeeping equipment.
Moreover, a full duty exemption on the purchase of a single/double space cabin vehicle and/or concessionary road tax to a registered and eligible beekeeper. Eligibility criteria are: Minimum of 20 beehives; in operation for at least one year and apiary site is in an agricultural area or in the forest; A subsidy of Rs 500 per bee queen is provided to beekeepers up to a maximum of 10 queens; The Agricultural Marketing Board will import beeswax in bulk and re-sell to bee keepers at an affordable price.
New mellifluous plants are being introduced to enable year-round honey production beekeepers to adopt environmentally smart agricultural practices and use organic techniques to generate high-quality products; and free access to bee zone areas including Petit Sable, La Ferme, and Bras d’Eau to set up their colonies. Access have already been given to 60 beekeepers.
Beekeepers who have benefitted from Governmental assistance are as follows; more than 100 persons (including 30 ladies) have been trained in apiculture for the period July 2021 to June 2022, 1 085 have been trained in beekeeping in the last 5 years, 64 beekeepers have been given access to place bee colonies in the bee zones (La Ferme: 24 beekeepers; Bras d’Eau: 37 beekeepers; and Petit Sable: 3 beekeepers) and 18 beekeepers have received a 50% grant up to Rs 20 000 for the purchase of beekeeping equipment.
The Ag. Assistant Director of Agricultural Services and Principal Scientific Officer at the Apiculture Section, Sookar, assures that the necessary support is provided at all levels to facilitate the activities of beekeepers. Managed bees suffer from a variety of problems, including pesticide exposure, misuse of herbicides, poor nutrition due to inadequate access to natural forage, honeybee pest and predators and colony absconding.
He emphasises on the need to take proper care of bee hives, learn about the specific characteristics of bees and how to handle them to avoid bee stings. Free training is offered to aspirant beekeepers, which covers both a theoretical part to introduce them with the basic aspects of beekeeping followed by practical sessions in apiaries. The training spans on three and a half days from 08:45 to noon (Two and a half days for theory and one-half day is for practical). A certificate of attendance is given after completing the training.
The training is held by the Apiculture Section of the Entomology Division to ensure that beekeepers are exposed to a combination of tried and tested techniques. It focuses on beehive management, requeening, honey harvest, and detection of pest.
Practical training is carried out on an apiary site accommodated at the Albion Experiment Station which is under the responsibility of the Agronomy Division of the Ministry of Agro-Industry and Food Security. The station is situated in the sub-humid zone in the district of Black River at 27 m above sea level. It has a total area of 2,6 ha of which 1,8 ha are available for seed production.
Crucial steps of beekeeping namely the use of beekeeping equipment, demonstration of operations, carrying out hive inspection and honey harvesting are introduced to trainees by officers of the Department. The person should have at least one beehive and the site where the beehive is placed should not be in a residential area. The site could be an agricultural land, a forest land or a site at least 500 m from a residential area.
The minimum personal equipment that is needed includes a bee suit, veil, hive tool, and bee smoker. High-top boots with pants legs tucked in should also be worn. Bee gloves are useful but not essential. For the harvesting of honey, equipment including smoker, hive tool, bee brush and honey extractor are needed. Aspirant beekeepers should register for proper training at the Apiculture Section and get themselves registered as a beekeeper to avail of all the Governmental benefits being provided.
All beekeepers (even those having only one bee colony) are requested to register themselves with the Apiculture Section of the Entomology Division.