Beekeepers in Kitgum district have been cautioned against adulterating honey if they are to attract good prices and sell more. The advice comes as farmers prepare to harvest honey, now and in the next month.
Honey, a natural and raw foodstuff consumed as a sweetener and sometimes as medicine due to its therapeutic impact on human health, is prone to adulterants caused by humans who often heat it or add a certain amount of syrup, derived from plants, or chemically modify the sugars in the syrups to make them look like real honey.
Kitgum district entomologist Barnabas Opiyo told Uganda Radio Network in an interview that it is a common practice for farmers to add water to honey, after harvest, to add volume to it with the hope of getting more money, yet it affects the price of their honey instead.
Opiyo notes that although most honey dealers who buy in bulk have a refractometer- a machine for testing the amount of water in honey, the small scale buyers don’t have that privilege. He says that diluting honey affects its shelf-life and that it is a crime that is punishable under the law.
Opiyo explains that although moisture is an important parameter in determining honey quality, the high water content in honey causes it to ferment easily. He says that honey has little moisture of between 16-22 per cent, just to help in preserving it.
That means, it is rather thick and when left open, and its moisture content rises above the normal 22 per cent, the extra moisture causes honey to ferment, making it go bad within a short time. He recommends the use of air-tight containers to keep honey from attracting more moisture since honey is highly hydrophilic.
Opiyo notes that some farmers, because of a lack of processing machines, use heat to separate their honey from its wax. This, he says, makes the honey lose its thickness and go bad faster and also render some of its products such as the wax, useless.
Wycliff Odong, the proprietor of Kitamu Honey, an enterprise that buys honey on a large scale and packages it for sale, says heating honey remains the main form of adulteration in Acholi. Odong says although the apiarists heat honey as a means of processing it, but makes the honey lose its natural nutrients and medicinal values.
Odong says the district can produce more than 100 tonnes of honey, but farmers are still sceptical about the market, and more than double of the tonnes of honey sold is eaten from home.
Mario Omona, a beekeeper in Namukora sub-county, and member of Cam Ki Kwoki Beekeepers says that the main challenge of the beekeepers is the lack of smokers for them to extract clean honey. Omona says this forces them to use dry grass that laces their honey with soot particles, hence spoiling its quality and only attracting low prices.
He says they are also located seven kilometres away from the trading centre, which makes transporting honey to the market expensive. Omona says sometimes in the process of looking for markets, their honey ends up overstaying at home, exposing it to increased moisture, since many would be stealthily opening and closing the container to have a taste.
A 2017 study by researchers for Makerere University and the Department of Agriculture at Ghent University in Belgium, showed although beekeeping can contribute to rural livelihoods, its potential is not being optimally tapped in the whole of Sub Saharan Africa.
The study reveals that in Uganda only 1 per cent of the potential 500,000 tonnes of honey is harvested each year, yet Uganda is among the five countries in sub-Saharan Africa licensed to export honey to the European Union.
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