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By Cynthia Maku

The  Acting Secretary for the Department of Agriculture and Livestock Dr Nelson Simbiken welcomed the safe arrival of 20 queen bees from Western Australia consigned to boost the production of honey in the country and the department’s breeding and distribution work plan.

Dr Simbiken said this is a major boost for bee farmers who will be re-stocking their hives with improved breeds under a DAL-Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR) partnership on apiculture development in the country.

ACIAR transported the 20 queen bees at a cost of K150, 000. These bees are specifically bred to improve the gene in local bees of which Dr Simbiken said had declined through inbreeding since the first ones were imported from New Zealand 44 years ago.

“The new queen bees will bring a positive effect for farmers who produce 80 tons of honey per annum and who will now have the potential to double the figures,” Dr Simbiken said.

“After years we are now seeing a new breeding stock under this partnership. The benefits are immense because with an improved stock we can increase food security and production of honey in the country. Other cash crops will also benefit from increased and quality pollination with the improved breeds. We hope to produce at least 150 tons by 2024”, added Dr Simbiken.

He elaborated that currently the price of honey is at K20 per kg for the farmers, the majority of which are in the Eastern Highlands Province.

“It is a business activity earning farmers K1.3 million per year out of 5000 hives,” said Dr Simbiken.

The queen bee consignment will be flown to Goroka in the Eastern Highlands Province under quarantine.

Dr Simbiken said the first job following all formalities would be to ensure all beehives in each district are re-queened with new queen bees.

He said other beehives throughout the country will be attended to soon after all beehives in EHP are completed.

Dr Simbiken said the program commences in EHP because nearly 70 per cent of beehives in the country are located there.

He added that upon arrival, the 20 queen bees will remain quarantined for the required period before commencing the actual breeding and re-queening program.

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