Forest honey faces challenges to market acceptance

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Four bottles of forest honey harvested by Indigenous Peoples from Occidental Mindoro, Pangasinan and Palawan are showcased at Advocafe in Mendiola, Manila. -- ANNA GABRIELA A. MOGATO

A NONGOVERNMENT organization is hoping to promote forest honey harvested by indigenous peoples (IPs) by providing production and marketing support to gatherers, giving them an opportunity to earn a sustainable livelihood.

Enterprise development officer Erwin L. Diloy of the Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Program (NTFP-EP) said during the third Forest Honey Conference that it hopes participants will tap social marketing partner, Custom Made Crafts Center (CMCC) to expand demand for forest honey.

“We believe that its every IP’s right to attain sustainable growth and livelihood. There are a lot of networks for other commodities but there’s no network for honey,” he added.

Mr. Diloy said production of forest honey is more difficult because of the use of non-domesticated bees and the absence of human intervention.

Forest honey represents 10% of the market for honey, with the rest being farmed.

“For the IPs, forest honey is food. It’s also medicine. When you go to the far-flung areas when they harvest honey, they only divide it among themselves and they don’t sell it,” he added.

“That’s why hardly any forest honey comes out of their communities.”

Since 2012, the Philippine Forest Honey Network (PFHN) has organized honey harvesters from Antipolo, Bukidnon, Negros Occidental, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Palawan, Pangasinan, Quezon and Zambales.

Mr. Diloy said that there are 577 harvester members so far, but expects more joining soon.

In its presentation during the conference, PFHN said it has an average production of 10 tons per year.

Harvesters belonging to the network are given support on processing, quality control, labeling and marketing.

Harvesting the forest honey, is still be done traditionally through smoking and climbing trees.

Mr. Diloy said that the harvester and the community each receives a cut of P5 per bottle, which usually retais for P150.

Another P10 will go to a Resource Management and Cultural Preservation fund, which finances reforestation projects.

CMCC Sales and Marketing Officer Joy Ann T. Chua said that demand is mostly from bulk buyers such as restaurants and individuals looking for “natural cures,” though the main obstacle to wider take-up is the public’s lack of familiarity with forest honey.

“People don’t understand that there is such thing as forest honey that is harvest by IPs. The challenge is looking for those looking for the forest honey label,” she added.

At present, CMCC only sells forest honey at its office in Diliman, Quezon City, or in bazaars, with compliance with food safety rules set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seen as the next hurdle.

“We would like to go into retail, but (stores are) asking for FDA certifications,” Ms. Chua said. — Anna Gabriela A. Mogato