JEDDAH: Honey, an essential part of the breakfast ritual for many Saudis, is one of the most popular products from the Kingdom’s southern highlands.
For hundreds of years, the mountains of Asir have produced some of the finest varieties of honey.
The mountains are known for their climatic and geographical diversity, with thousands of trees and flowering shrubs providing an ideal environment for nature’s cultivators, bees.
The Sarat Asir mountains are ideal for beekeeping in the Saudi summers, due to the precipitation and moderate weather.
In winter, beekeepers move their hives from the mountaintops to the Tihama plains in order to achieve ecological balance and protect bees from harsh conditions.
Bees can also produce larger quantities of honey due to the availability of honey plants and trees, such as the sidr, sumra, talh, salm, darm, sharm and shouka.
Honey production is gaining extra attention from the government, which has launched several projects to encourage beekeeping.
The projects hope to train Saudi youth to pursue beekeeping as part of a campaign to promote the culture of beekeeping in the Kingdom in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan to diversify the labor market.
Realizing the importance of beekeeping and honey production in achieving self-sufficiency, King Khalid University in Asir has set up a special research unit on bees and honey production, which will also help to create jobs for Saudi youth.
The Bees and Honey Production Research Unit has launched several programs and initiatives, including the “Distinctive Trademark” scheme with the beekeeping industry.
It has also begun marketing bee products and the region’s uniqueness in having rare types of high-quality honey in a bid to counter the sale of inferior products, one of the main challenges facing beekeepers and national marketers.
The unit’s laboratories test the quality of the honey and other bee products. A laboratory equipped with an incubator where bees can stay until they are examined also carries out diagnosis of bee diseases.
Microscopes and a special microscopic imaging unit are used to photograph pathogens and diagnose illnesses.
Asir is witnessing remarkable cooperation between authorities specialized in beekeeping, such as the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, the Cooperative Society for Beekeepers, the Bee Research Unit and Saudi Aramco, to support beekeepers and promote the culture of beekeeping among Saudi youth.
Methods of beekeeping and honey production vary between hobby and commercial purposes. Some beekeepers create special hives in backyards, parks, near their homes or on farms, and prefer calm bee strains that can adapt to the space and flowering plants in the surrounding area.
Saudi Arabia’s growing need will encourage beekeepers and farmers to provide high-quality products for the local market.
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