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1.1 What are "value added" products from beekeeping?

The best known primary products of beekeeping are honey and wax, but pollen, propolis, royal jelly, venom, queens, bees and their larvae are also marketable primary bee products. While most of these products can be consumed or used in the state in which they were produced by the bees, there are many additional uses where these products form only a part of all the ingredients of another product. Because of the quality and sometimes almost mystical reputation and characteristics of most primary bee products, their addition to other products usually enhances the value or quality of these secondary products. For this reason, the secondary products, which partially, or wholly, can be made up of primary bee products, are referred to here as "value added" products from beekeeping.

Many of the primary beekeeping products do not have a market until they are added to more commonly used, value added products. Even the value of the primary products may increase if good use is made of them in other products, thereby increasing the profitability of many beekeeping operations.

In some cases the traditional and early technological uses of primary bee products have been replaced by other (often synthetic products) because of better availability, lower cost and/or easier processing. But in regard to food or health products, there are no synthetic substances which can substitute for the wide variety of characteristics of primary bee products. Only when it comes to highly specialized applications and conditions, will synthetics sometimes outperform these unique and versatile products. In that sense, all products containing one or several of the primary bee products are value added products. Furthermore, the combination of several bee products synergistically increases their beneficial significance beyond their individual biological values.

Since monetary resources are limited in many societies the additional value cannot always be obtained in the form of higher prices, but may show itself in the form of preferred purchases. For the same reasons though, some products may not be able to compete against cheaper synthetic products. In such cases, the added value and cost may make a product unsuitable, unless other markets can be found.

1.2 The purpose of this bulletin

The purpose of this bulletin is to distribute and make available information on the manufacturing, processing and marketing of value added bee products. It is directed at beekeepers as well as non-beekeepers, small entrepreneurs, extension officers and those involved in small business development. Therefore, it tries to provide enough information to understand the primary products and their present and potential use. It should also enable the reader to properly buy, store, process, package and market the primary products, as well as the value added products derived from them.

Traditionally, honey is considered the major beekeeping product. Wax has played a considerable role in only a few parts of the world and propolis is even less known. However, with increasing knowledge about beekeeping and an awareness of the beneficial aspects of many bee products, the use and demand for other products is increasing. The inclusion of "natural" bee products in cosmetics, medicines and foods has improved consumer appeal. While such appeal is not always based on scientific evidence, more and more studies confirm at least some of the traditionally claimed benefits of primary bee products.

This bulletin cannot be a scientific review of the rapidly increasing volume of research available, but it attempts to give a brief yet comprehensive overview of the current state of knowledge. Thus the reader should be able to make conclusions about the myriad of sometimes miraculous effects and cures claimed for bee products. References to more detailed articles, reviews and speciality journals are made to guide those whose interests go further.

It is also impossible in the context of this bulletin to give more than a summarized description of all the primary bee products. However, an attempt has been made to give enough information for the reader, including non-beekeepers, to understand the products and to be able to draw conclusions on their proper use.

Some of the value added products mentioned in this bulletin require advanced manufacturing technology. Many, if not most can be made on a small-scale but, like cosmetics, would benefit from better processing technology and specialized training for the manufacturers. The general philosophy behind this bulletin, however, is to stimulate creative experimentation with new and old products suitable for local markets and customer needs.

In addition to presenting the multitude of possible uses for bee products, it is hoped that the information provided can lead to more diversified and increased income for beekeepers. It should help to create small business opportunities for non-beekeepers and improve the health, nutrition and economic situation of beekeepers and those who are willing to choose alternatives to today's abundance of over-processed and/or synthetic drugs, cosmetics and foods.

Finally, the bulletin should stimulate beekeeping as a hobby and so may be a valuable source of recreation and relaxation.

1.3 How to use the bulletin

In the same way that two cooks, using the same recipe to produce different tasting dinners, the recipes and guidelines in this bulletin will produce different results in different places. Availability and quality of ingredients will vary from country to country, as will working conditions, customer preferences and marketing possibilities for the products. Therefore, the given recipes and recommendations have to be tried under local conditions. Recipes, ingredients, flavours, colours, consistencies, packaging and quality have to be adjusted to local markets. Where possible, alternatives and variations have been suggested.

The reader who is considering making beeswax candles or cosmetics should find enough information to decide whether he or she can physically, technically and economically afford to start the particular kind of production. Furthermore, he or she should be able to produce a variety of simple, good quality products with the information provided.

For most product categories there are more detailed and specialized publications available, which should be used to expand or improve a chosen activity. Since many of these books are expensive and in some countries difficult to obtain, as complete a picture as possible is presented in this bulletin. In addition, addresses of sources for books, laboratory tests, information and marketing assistance are given.

The goals of this bulletin therefore are to serve as a resource guide, a source of ideas and as a practical "cookbook" on products made with primary bee products.

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