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Honey price spirals as Rwanda's bees disappear

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(8 Oct 2019) LEAD IN:
Honey prices in Rwanda have increased dramatically in the last decade reflecting a growing scarcity of the bees and honey.
Bee keepers are reporting finding hives littered with dead bees and scores of dead bees on plantations where pesticides are used.  

STORYLINE:
Bees buzz nosily around the hive, spending their busy days making honey and pollinating flowers.
But honey bees are in decline here in Rwanda and around the world.
Bees act as agents of pollination, transferring pollen grains from male to female parts of flowers. As a result, seeds are produced.
Many agricultural crops are dependant on pollinators according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), including coffee, chocolate, sunflower and sesame oils and tea plants.
The FAO says between $235 and $577 billion USD worth of annual global food production relies directly on pollinators.  
But, according to a 2016 report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), an estimated 16 percent of vertebrate pollinators are threatened with global extinction.
It's claimed wild pollinators are being threatened by a variety of factors, from habitat destruction and intensive agriculture, to pesticides, disease and climate change.
Fewer bees, means less honey and reduced profits for bee keepers and honey producers explains Gilbert Kanez, Manager of the honey processing plant, ABDC.
" We lost so many customers because the honey prices have increased so much. What I see is that few people can afford our products, and the honey products are becoming for rich people, whereas before it wasn't like this. We regret that the production is reducing, and we are losing some customers"
ABDC is one the country's biggest honey producers in Rwanda and the company exports natural honey to Europe.
In recent years the company produced an average 70 tons of natural honey.
But now that figure has dropped to an average of 40 tons per year.
Data from the Rwandan Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources indicate that nationally honey production dropped from 5,000 tons in 2016 to 3,500 tons in 2017.
Honey prices in Rwanda have increased, from $1 US to almost $6 US per litre in under 10 years according to the Department of Agriculture.
A recent report into the state of the World's Insects largely blamed intensive agriculture for the global decline in insects  - with pesticides turning crops into sterile fields.
Insects are becoming extinct eight times faster than mammals, birds or reptiles according to a report published earlier this year in the journal, Biological Conservation.
Tomato Farmer Angelique Bamurange, says she sees a direct correlation between spraying pesticides and the bees disappearing for a period.
"It is normal to see bees in tomato plantations like this, look there on tomato flowers - bees are flying, you can see that when we spread pesticide they can't rest on the flowers because they get problems immediately, and escape. When we spread pesticides, all the bees flee, and they can come back after a week. I think this product we are using to kill insects is dangerous for bees They will come back after some days."
Jean Sibomana started his natural honey business in 2001, with two bee farms and more than 40 hives.
Today, he has just 19 bee hives on his two farms.
Sibomana wants the government to ban pesticides which are harmful to bees.
The FAO say that bees are also under threat from climate change, intensive agriculture, loss of biodiversity and pollution.

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