Honey Industry in Malaysia – Food Issue

Bees, what do we know about these little creatures?

Whenever a bee hive is found near a residential area, it will be destroyed for the safety of the humans around as everyone is afraid of its sting. Not much thought is put to these creatures unless it is a source of income, a honey supply business for instance. It may sound cruel to some but this is how it goes here.

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By the way, do you recall having any learning about bees or the benefits of honey in our education system? It seems like a foreign idea to have such subject but for the sake of learning and understanding our local food system, do you think it is a good idea?

The Current State of the Honey Industry

Based on an article at 2010; the production of local honey is said to be lower than in the 1980’s because the number of bee keepers declined over the years.

The local production cannot cope with the domestic demand for natural honey, therefore the high demand in the country are met by increasing imports from Australia, China and the United States in which are of the low grade honey.

Malaysia produces only about 4% of its local honey requirements. The production in Malaysia are largely in the area of Johor (Pontian and Batu Pahat), Perak (Bagan Datuk) and Selangor (Kuala Langat and Kuala Selangor).

What Do We Know about Our Local Honey Bees?

Below is a video that will explains it all.

There are five facts of our Malaysian bees.

Issues

One of the main sustainability issues of bee keeping is the availability of our local bees. These bees are under threat by uncontrolled importation of foreign bees that could bring harmful disease and destroying the entire bee keeping industry in Malaysia.

Coupled with the development of land and logging activities have brought a massive deforestation of the Malaysian jungles in which are also threatening the natural habitat of the local honey bees.

However ever since the frequent recurrence of the regional haze/smog due to open burning in Sumatera, Indonesia, the numbers of these bee colonies dwindled to around 50%.

Consequently, the drop of the numbers of colonies had inadvertently affected the source of income of these honey collectors as the activity became less dependable in comparison to other jobs in the village or factories.

It is no longer profitable and the job as honey collector can be challenging and risky, due to time limitation of the harvest period in which is nearing the monsoon period, the inaccessibility and logistic problems as many of these bee hives are found on Tualang trees located deep in the heart of the rainforest.

Generally, our local bees are coming to fast extinction in Malaysia due to excessive use of pesticides and weed killers. Many Malaysian farmers have forgotten and neglected the role of bees as natural pollinators. Matter worsen as Malaysians in general are lacking the knowledge on the natural role of bees.

More: Threat to Malaysia’s Bee Trees

Government’s Initiative

Meanwhile, based on an article dated 11 December 2013, the Government had recently initiated the assistance in this area of the industry by introducing 40 boxes of the bees imported from Perth, Australia to be kept at the Sabah Forest Industry (SFI) Plantation Sdn Bhd nursery at Kampung Mandulong. The project is said to be the first in the state with the objective to revive the honey bee industry that declined after 2009

Still a Milestone

A bee farm run by Summer Pacific Bhd, a subsidiary of KTS Group of Companies in Kuching, Sarawak is thriving.

Based on a recent article dated 9 November 2013, a Professor from the University of the Andes in Venezuela, Dr Patricia Vit was deeply impressed by the expertise and technology adopted by this bee farm – not only the honey produces is pure, the entire process of production is environmental friendly and no genetic modification has been involved.

Another initiative is that bee farms are turning into tourist spot in order to support the industry and playing the role in educating the public – Cameron Highlands (Pahang), Malacca and Sabah.

Be it for our local honey bees or imported honey bees; I wonder, is there still hope for the industry to soar? What will be the future like?

This article will end with a quote by a bee farming entrepreneur of Johor,

Bees are the most important insects in the world because they pollinate the plants and produce a wide range of nutritious bee products. If bees disappear from the surface of the world, we would suffer sky-rocketing food prices for most plants rely on bees to pollinate. (Lim)

Kindly mull over this quote, do ponder on the importance of bees’ role in the natural world and its effect on our food system & your wallet. My hope is to see that it serve as an eye opener to us locals.

Side Bar
As a side bar, let’s relax and be entertained by a Malaysian, Zee Avi about the life of a honey bee.

Do you think this song of hers depicts the fate of our local bees or is it about her life story?

Anyway Malaysia is a country endowed with an abundance of resources; how we handle these resources placed in our hands will determine the outcome of the country, who we are and what kind of people are we, don’t you think so?

I sincerely wish not to see such wonderful abundance to be flushed down to drain due to the lack of wisdom and common sense.

To me, if we locals do not know how to treasure what we have now and fully utilize it well, it is the equivalent to pouring money down the drain. It will be too late to wake up and realizing nothing is left for our future generations. Surely they will suffer because of our actions today.

Like the saying, “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” (Mae West); if we always have the next generation in mind for every action we take today, can we afford to squander these wonderful resources endowed to us?

What do you think?

References:
1. Mohd Mansor Ismail, “Trade Potential of Natural Honey in Malaysia“, UPM Knowledge Management Portal, 25 January 2010.

2. Athi Shankar, “Local farmers unfriendly to bees“, FMT News, 25 September 2013

3. Azzedine Haridi, “Honey Analyses in Malaysia“, Bee Keeping in Malaysia, 25 May 2010.

4. Analia Manriquez, “Malaysia – Imported Bees from Australia Trying to Recuperate the Bee Keeping Decline“, ApiNews, 11 December 2013.

5. Translated by Kathy Tan, “From Hardware to Bee-farming Business, MySinChew, 11 March 2011.

6. “Summer Pacific ‘a model bee farming’“, Borneo Post Online, 9 November 2013.

7. Makhdzir Mardan, “Threat to Malaysia’s Bee Trees“, The StarOnline.

8. “Geography of Malaysia“, Wikipedia The Free Online Encyclopedia.

9. “The tualang tree or Koompassia excelsa“, Rainforest Journal Forays into the Rainforest, 27 July.

10. “Honey Bee Farms Apiary in Cameron Highlands“, Thristhan.com, 11 July 2012.

11. “Simple Bee Farm“, Softinn Solutions, http://simple-bee.com.my/

12. “Gombizau Honey Bee Farm“, Sabah Tourism Board, http://www.sabahtourism.com/destination/gombizau-honey-bee-farm

13. Sir David Frederick Attenborough, “Giant honey bees-Life in the Undergrowth-BBC Attenborough“, BBC Worldwide, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vll_2xH_SQY

14. Dominic Monaghan, “Five Facts About Giant Honey Bees“, Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan, http://www.bbcamerica.com/wild-things/videos/five-facts-about-giant-honey-bees/

15. Zee Avi, “Zee Avi-Honey Bee“, SlowHarvest, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7t5RrUt3nrY

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