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Increasing challenges of beekeeping in rural Idlib… High cost and low profit

Beehives in Dabiq town in northern Aleppo countryside - 18 May 2017 (Enab Baladi)

Beehives in Dabiq town in northern Aleppo countryside - 18 May 2017 (Enab Baladi)

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Enab Baladi – Shadia al-Tataa

Prior to the Syrian revolution, apiaries spread widely in most of the cities and rural areas of Idlib province. They produced many types of honey that differ according to the kinds of flowers of which honey is extracted. Nevertheless, beekeeping is limited nowadays to the northern regions of the province, such as Hazano and Killi towns.

Idlib province has lost 60 percent of its apiaries that spread in southern rural Idlib, such as Saraqib, west of Maarat al-Numan, and Kafroma groves, on the back of several military operations by the Russia-backed Syrian regime forces, the beekeeper, Badi al-Khattab, said to Enab Baladi.

Different kinds of honey are produced in Idlib, including the citrus honey, the black seed honey, the euphorbia (spurge) honey, and various other types.

Factors affected beekeeping

According to al-Khattab, the recent military operations destroyed most of the bee pastures in the eastern countryside of Maarat al-Numan. These pastures were considered the best for growing the euphorbia plant (a plant which bees feed on).

Honey harvesting season starts in May and extends till September, where more pastures lead to an increase in the number of honey harvests. Usually, the process of honey harvesting takes place twice a year for every beehive; yet, it can be conducted four or five times a year in better seasons.

The lack of bee pastures and honey production resulted from the difficulty of movement between different areas in Idlib, which are dismembered and separated by the ongoing conflict. In addition, people, including beekeepers, are unstable due to their never-ending displacement triggered by military operations. 

In an interview with Enab Baladi, the agricultural engineer Hassan al-Abs said that beekeeping is based on moving the apiaries to many areas during the seasons in search of new pastures and flowers favored by the bees.

However, this process of transferring apiaries was not available last February due to the previous military offensives, taking into account that apiaries are transported only late at night.

The beekeeper needs essential equipment such as a protective suit, gloves, a smoker, boots, and some other tools in addition to a transport vehicle, a car, or at least a motorbike, al-Abs said.

High cost and small profit

According to the beekeeper al-Khattab, the lack of supplies and equipment of beekeeping, which is “no longer profitable,” is included in the adverse factors influencing bee farming in Idlib and its rural areas.

The cost of an empty traditional beehive amounts to nine thousand Syrian pounds (SYP = 5 USD), while the modern one costs 40 thousand (SYP = 23 USD), besides the additional cost of some large equipment, such as the honeycomb frame machine and bees’ medications.  

According to al-Khattab, “this cost is high compared to the price of first quality honey, which is sold for only ten thousand (SYP = 5 USD).”

As for bee medications, they are often imported. Beekeepers of Idlib province complain about the lack of bee medicines, and their high prices, when available.

Besides, beekeepers face a crisis related to the devaluation of the Syrian Pound. They sell their honey production in the Syrian currency and buy beekeeping equipment in foreign currencies, as most of them are imported.

According to al-Abs, bee farming is a delicate profession, as it requires preventive measures and bee medications on a daily basis.

This profession also involves the difficult task of moving apiaries to new pastures, which Syrian beekeepers could not do in recent years, due to multiple areas of influence and military confrontations.

Meanwhile, there are no special centers for beekeeping or control over the importation of hybrid honey bees, according to al-Khattab.

 “Bad foreign breeds of bees that do not fit with our country’s weather were imported,” which affected the local breed of bees and their hybridization during their mating.

 

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