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| Wednesday, 18 October 2017 |
Indonesia Version

Learning Value-Added farming
Wednesday, 25 January, 2017 | 14:52 WIB
Learning Value-Added farming

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Emanuel Serodi Kelen sometimes goes into the forest in his hometown of Larantuka, the capital of East Flores in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), for a quick research. He notices the shady parts of the forest and looks at trees the locals call pohon lilin (candlestick tree) because of the smooth, waxy surface of its bark.

The trees, which can grow up to 20 meters high, seem to be the choice of wild bees to house their hives, particularly the top branches. "After looking around, I can estimate how much honey we can harvest," said Emanuel, who goes by the name of Eman. "I'm optimistic we can get more this year."

The forty-year-old Eman explained that in 2016 he harvested less than 300 kilograms of honey, much reduced from the more than 600 kilograms he managed to collect in March and October of the previous year, the two harvest seasons in NTT. Eman said the low yield was caused by a prolonged dry spell that lasted months in 2016. "The bees need the right climate with frequent rainfall to produce honey in abundance. They also need ample nectar from nearby plants and flowers," he added.

Eman has been harvesting honey since 1997. He also tends to a small farm near his house in Larantuka, but it was only in 2014 did he learn to properly package the honey that he harvests. "Before, I just took them out from the hives and sold them per liter to the market, in used beer bottles," he added.

He said his earnings from honey increased significantly after he learned to properly package and label his produce. He sells a 250-milliliter bottle of honey for Rp75,000, earning him between Rp10-20 million during each harvest season, depending on the amount of honey he manages to derive. 

Juananda Kopayona, 24, is a volunteer who has helped honey farmers in East Flores and Alor learn about processing and packaging raw products, and introduced them to new markets. He himself began marketing honey in 2014 when he was still residing in Palembang, South Sumatra.

"A farmer once offered my parents two jerry cans full of wild honey and I helped them sell it," said Juan, short for Juananda. 

He bought bottles for packaging and created a label to uniquely identify his wares as wild honey, as honey cultivated on farms is often marketed as forest honey because of the higher prices it fetches.

Juan himself, in fact, knew very little about forest honey, so he turned to the Internet to learn more about it. "I looked up on YouTube how to test whether the honey is genuine or not," he said.

Eventually, he became interested in developing the product. Juan went off to Flores to assess the island's potential to yield honey from the forests and quickly realized it would be profitable. But harvesting and processing of honey there were still carried out traditionally without taking into account the honey's durability. (*)

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