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Ethiopia beeswax is a popular product in the local and export markets. It is not only one of the most marketed within the country but also one of the most exported livestock product by Ethiopia.
Produce & origin
Ethiopia is the largest producer of honey as well as the by-product beeswax in the whole of Africa followed closely by Zambia and Tanzania. Their dominance around the continent and globally has been attributed to the customary beekeeping practices that have shown a remarkably high production of beeswax in every hive.
Although the country is outshining other nations on the global and continental level, the government is confident it is capable of doing better in the sector if the state manages to unleash its full potential in the production of beeswax. Although transition and modern beehives still come second in the amount of honey they contribute to the entire national share, the government continues to encourage modernization in beekeeping which they believe will increase volumes of beeswax if adequately utilized. The quality is also projected to improve.
Smallholder farmers contribute the lion’s share of the national crude honey volume. The major honey production regions include the Oromia and Addis Ababa City Administration areas.
Ethiopia exported 5.5K metric tons of beeswax in 2017 which were worth $3.4 million. The major export destinations for Ethiopia beeswax are the Far East comprising of China and Japan, the Middle East that is Yemen, Emirates and Saudi Arabia and Europe mainly Germany and Norway.
Uses and characterization
Ethiopia beeswax has a high demand due to its quality. However, widespread adulteration practices have prompted innovation of traceability mechanisms to ascertain the quality of the product.
Beeswax is characterized by a melting point ranging between 61.0 oC-63.9 oC, saponification cloud point from 57.9 oC-65.0oC while ester value lies between 66.4- 98.0. Acid value ranges from 18.0-32.7.
This ensures the beeswax meets the export standards.
Ethiopia beeswax is famous for its multipurpose uses.
Locally, eighty percent of the beeswax is used to produce twaf-traditional candles with the churches in Ethiopia cited as the primary recipients of the commodity. The other buyers include retailer points, Supermarkets, whole sellers and other relevant institutions.
Exported Ethiopia beeswax is manufactured into other products.
It is used to make foods, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and as a raw material in manufacturing industries.
Sources and seasonality
Farmers mostly hang beehives over high trees. It is estimated honey from a traditional hive average 5-6 kilograms while that from the modern ones weighs 15-20 kilograms.
Beekeeping is prevalent in regions of Oromia, Amhara, Tigray, Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region East. It is also done in the East and Southern areas.
Collection of beeswax and honey is conducted after the raining season which starts in October and ends in December. Harvesting is also done partly during the May-June season.
Beeswax and honey go hand in hand because the former is distributed throughout the honeycomb.
During the harvesting phase, export agencies prefer taking charge. They could also be present to inspect and supervise harvesting and later the processing mainly because a majority of beekeepers are not yet conversant with modern methods. Making sure the end product does not get contaminated is essential.
The wax combs are harvested when there are fewer bees if possible to make the exercise easier. Although it is also conducted at night, harvesting in the morning is prevalent because bees tend to leave hives in the morning to look for pollen and nectar. A smoker is used to blow smoke at the entrance of the hives which draws the attention of the bees away from the harvester. The honeycombs are picked, and a honey brush is used to remove the bees gently, but fingers are used to extract those stuck in the combs. The combs are then separated from the frames using a capping knife. The wax caps and combs are then placed in containers fitted with lids.
Manufacturing and packing
Numerous methods come in handy, but the most prevalent amidst exporters are two.
• Extraction method-Involves a wax press and boiling water that carries up to 120-litres of water. The combs are immersed in 20-30 litres of water and allowed to melt then the wiring is removed, the subsequent liquid directed into a jute-lined and pressing commenced.
• Centrifugal extraction- Usually an expensive installation. Boiling water is used to melt the combs then the fluid is transferred into baskets fitted in a centrifugal wax extractor.
Spinning follows which is done at more than 1500 rpm with temperatures above 65 degrees Celsius to ensure the wax does not settle. Automatically, the wax of pure quality goes through an opening and out of the extractor.
The wax is packaged in airtight and stainless containers for larger volumes.
Containers are cleaned to remove any trace of residue to ensure the wax retains its quality and is not contaminated.
Beeswax is stored in the dark and under cold conditions. To retain the pleasant honey-like aroma and color, they are covered with wrapping paper then placed in containers. The inner surface of the vessels is made of glass, plastic or stainless steel.
Ethiopia beeswax for export is transported to Bola Addis Ababa airport in designated trucks or vans depending on the size of shipment ordered by the customer under precool conditions.
All bees raring farmer belongs to particular unions, producer groups, and cooperatives. They ensure the farmers have broad knowledge and understanding of all Global Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) guidelines in bees raring. This has helped the country produce high-quality beeswax day in day out for local consumption and export.
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