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China Daily Global / 2020-05 / 22 / Page014

Beekeepers chase flowers to resume honey business in China

China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-05-22 00:00

HEFEI-After a month of delay as the coronavirus stung one of the world's largest honey-makers by confining people indoors, Wang Jianguo and his wife are back on their flower-chasing journey.

Two days after traveling more than 1,500 kilometers north from their hometown of Jixi county in East China's Anhui province, the couple arrived in Northwest China's Ningxia Hui autonomous region in late April, where they are making locust honey.

"Previously, my wife and I, along with our yellow dog, usually set out from home in March to gather nectar, carrying beehives and tents to provinces and regions, including Jiangsu, Gansu and Xinjiang, and will return when there are no flowers around mid-August," says the 54-year-old beekeeper.

"The farther north we go, the later and longer the flowering phase (will last). Rapeseed, sunflower and mountain flowers in Xinjiang are all sources of our honey," Wang says.

As one of the world's largest honey producers, China accounts for about a quarter of the global output, behind which are hundreds of thousands of beekeepers such as Wang chasing the flowering season.

"The crop yields can be increased by about 30 percent after the pollination by bees, and we will thus be warmly welcomed by local people who believe we come to bring them wealth," Wang says.

Pursuing the sweet business for about two decades, Wang has witnessed the number of his beehives grow from about two to 130.

"Our bees are fed with white sugar during the non-pollinating season, from September to March, consuming about eight metric tons of sugar in about half a year," he adds.

The COVID-19 outbreak, however, rendered a bleak start to the pollinating season for beekeepers, forcing them to stay at home and feed the bees longer than usual.

"More than 100 boxes of bees eat 200 kilograms of white sugar a day, costing over 600 yuan ($85) daily," Wang says, adding that he has lost almost 30,000 yuan due to missing the flowering phase in Jiangsu.

On March 12, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs issued a notice that required local authorities to take practical and effective measures to promote the full resumption of work and production of apiculture as soon as possible, which gave beekeepers a shot in the arm.

Wang is among more than 3,000 beekeepers in his hometown. With the outbreak gradually being controlled in China, beekeepers have set off to chase flowers.

"Almost all of the 20 beekeepers within 30 km of us have left, and we are among the last batch," says Hu Xuefeng, Wang's wife. "We could gather nectar without the 14-day quarantine as long as we have a normal body temperature, and green channels have been opened which exempt beekeepers from vehicle tolls."

The online sales of honey in April registered more than 1,000 parcels a day, up 30 percent from the same period last year, as the demand for honey has increased due to its ability to boost immunity, according to Zhou Guanyue, chairman of Anhui Jixi Wufengyuan Apiculture Co.

Zhou's words also boost the confidence of beekeepers.

"Despite missing a flowering phase, there is always hope," Wang says.


China's beekeepers are back on their flower-chasing journey as COVID-19 has been brought under control in the country. XINHUA



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