Strategic Framework for Beekeeping Development in the Philippines (2007)
Antonio D. Baconawa
A Position paper by the Cerana Mellifera Company, Inc. (CMCI) and Beekeeping Congress of the Philippines, Inc. (BCPI)

Situation Assessment
The Philippines are endowed with natural resources conducive to successful beekeeping.

All species of bees used for beekeeping exist in the Philippines such as European honey bees (Apis mellifera), Asian honey bees (Apis cerana), and stingless bees (Trigona spp.). However, European honey bees is the preferred species used by commercial beekeepers because it is productive and less aggressive when being manipulated compared to Apis cerana (AC) and Trigona spp. (TS). Apis dorsata (AD), the giant honey bee is also an indigenous bee species, but this species cannot be hived or domesticated. This species can produce honey at par with Apis mellifera. AM produces an average of 20 kilos of honey per hive per year in the Philippines, while AC produces an average of 2 kilos of honey per year. TS would produce about 100 grams and about 2 kilos of pollen. This production is very low compared to production of AM in Canada, USA, and Australia. Tropical country like the Philippines has erratic nectar flow -- that is the reason for low productivity.

Beekeeping using Apis mellifera (AM) began during the American occupation of the Philippines. However, during that period beekeeping did not thrive due to the presence of varroa mites, which cannot be controlled until the discovery of miticides during the 60’s. The discovery of Apistan, a very effective miticide in the 80’s has increased tremendously the number of hives in the country from a few hundreds to thousands at present. Apis cerana and Trigona spp. are raised mostly by marginal farmers in the countryside because they lack the capital. Since AC and TS are indigenous species farmers can gather them from the wild and hive them. The country has 3,000 bee hives each for AC and AM, and hundreds of hives for TS. This hive population is way below the population of bee hives in Vietnam, Thailand and Taiwan which have 300,000 bee hives each.

Philippines is a net importer of honey bee products. An average of 200 tons of honey is imported every year aside from other bee products such as royal jelly, pollen, propolis, queen bees, to name a few. The country could produce only 50 tons from cultured hives of AM, AC and TS. AD is hunted for its honey by rural folks. Its honey is consumed by them and some are sold to the towns and cities.

The National Apiculture Research and Development (NARTDI) and UPLB Bee Program are two leading government organizations involved in the development of beekeeping in the Philippines. Beekeeping associations exist in the country such as Beekeeping Congress of the Philippines, Inc (BCPI), BEENET, FILBEE, among others. Some state colleges and universities in Luzon Island are also involved in beekeeping.

The country is exporting beekeepers to Australia, Canada and New Zealand. There are at least 500 registered beekeepers at beekeeping associations in the Philippines. High level beekeeping expertise can be found in the country for those contemplating to establish commercial beekeeping.

The two important challenges of beekeeping in the Philippines are the lack of quality AM queens and varroa mites infestation. AM queens are imported by the thousands every year from USA and Australia. Drugs for varroa mites are very expensive and tend to immunize the mites after a few years. Our organization has already devise a way to minimize if not eliminate these challenges by using queen instrumental insemination technology (QIIT). Thru this technology queens will be available all year in the country. This technology will also produce bees resistant to varroa mites infestation. However, the main challenge is government lack of support for beekeeping development. In earlier mentioned countries their governments are at the forefront of beekeeping efforts.

The world supply of pure honey (honey not contaminated with substances harmful to human health) is declining. China, a major supplier of honey bee products is banned to export to USA and other European countries because its bee products are contaminated with banned antibiotics. This would be an opportunity for the Philippines to fill the void cause by this ban. The Philippines is in the position to sell organic bee products to the world market.

Strategic Initiatives
The strategic framework for the development of beekeeping in the country rest on the following pillars:

  • production of quality queens;
  • organic bee products;
  • participation of farmers; and
  • partnership with international bee products processors

Production of quality queens could be achieved using the QIIT. Philippines could not produce enough queens due the presence of animals preying on queen bees and bad weather conditions.

Organic bee products could be produced in the country because of low labor cost. Bio-mechanical methods could be employed to prevent the varroa mites infestation and foulbrood diseases. QIIT could produce bees resistant to varroa mites and foulbrood diseases.

The participation of farmers, particularly the coconut farmers is crucial to the success of beekeeping project in the Philippines. Coconut plant produces food for bees all year long in the Philippines. The country has at least 3 million hectares of coconut plantation. Coconut farmers belong to the poorest of the poor in the country. A hectare of coconut earns a measly Php10,000 per year. The average land holding of coco-farmer is 1.5 hectares. Beekeeping project would increase the coco-farmer’s income by ten times.

Partnership with international bee products processors would expedite the development of beekeeping in the country. The experiences in Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam should be duplicated in the country where partnership with foreign companies became the norm, which in effect expedited their beekeeping industry by leaps and bounds. Partnership with international bee processors would insure market for Philippine honey bee products in the world markets. It would generate also the needed jobs the Philippines sorely needs.

Required Implementation Resources
The effective realization of the strategic framework would require significant implementation resources, namely:

  • queen instrumental insemination technology (QIIT);
  • organic bee products production technology (OBPPT); and
  • project feasibility study

QIIT is already a mature technology in USA, Australia, Canada, among others. Our group has acquired already the technology. Actually, we have produced instrumentally inseminated queens. We sent one of our men this June 2006 to further his training skills on QIIT at Ohio State University under the tutelage of Dr. Susan Cobey, a world renown QIIT expert.

The OBPPT is gaining ground already in the Philippines. A lot of bee farmers are implementing this technology in their operations.

Project feasibility study should be undertaken as soon as possible to realize the strategic framework.

The effective implementation of the strategic framework for the development of beekeeping in the Philippines would favorably impact the lives of about 20 million Filipinos who depend directly and indirectly from coconut industry. The pollination by honey bees would surely increase the productivity of the coconuts by 40%. Other crops outside and inside of coconut plantations will also benefited by cross-pollination thereby increase the productivity and genetic diversity.

The size of operation that would favor economies of scale as experienced in honey producing countries should be considered in this partnership. Canadian study suggests that operations of 700 to 999 would favor economies of scale. However, the honey production per hive per year in Canada is 10 times compared to production in the Philippines. Therefore, number of hives should be increased 10 times to produce the needed volume of honey. At any rate, this could be justified since labor wage in the country is only 10% of the minimum labor wage in Canada.

Coco-farmer participants should be given beekeeping training before embarking into the project. They will be provided with hives (a hive is composed of colony of bees, boxes, frames, bottom board, lid, and other appliances) based on the equity they would provide. They would not own the hives – hives shall remain property of the partnership. The honey produced by the hives shall be bought exclusively by the partnership and transported to central honey extraction plant near Metro Manila. A contract shall be forged between the participants and partnership before the hives shall be provided to former.

A central honey extraction plant should be constructed in Metro Manila or nearby provinces, which has the capacity to process at least 200 tons of honey per year. Locating the extraction plant in Metro Manila would be advantageous to the partnership because of its available infrastructure for export and domestic markets.

This position paper is written and presented by:
Antonio D. Baconawa
215 Aries Street, Pangarap Village, 
Caloocan City, 
Philippines 1427. 
Cellphone: 639205462603