High sugar prices: Can honey play alternative?

Some of the honey harvested in the country in a shop in Kampala. Much as sugar prices continue to rise, few people resort to honey as an alternative despite its health benefits. PHOTO / FILE 

What you need to know:

  • Currently, sugar prices range between Shs5,000 and Shs6,000 per kilo, up from between Shs2,800 and Shs3,400 a couple of months ago.

Following the sudden rise in the price of sugar, many Ugandans are pondering whether to carry on with consuming the sweet crystals or shift to honey, which comes with many health benefits.

Currently, sugar prices range between Shs5,000 and Shs6,000 per kilo, up from between Shs2,800 and Shs3,400 a couple of months ago.

When sugar millers increased the gate prices for cane a few weeks ago, following the scarcity of cane as out growers abandoned the cash crop over poor prices, it became inevitable that the country was headed for drastic increments in sugar prices.

This hike does not affect sugar alone, other commodities have since last year had similar drastic hikes in prices, leaving consumers at a pain of either doing without some basics in life or looking for alternatives in the market.

For the case of sugar, the basic alternative on the market is honey, but the intriguing question is how many will afford a switch to honey as a healthier alternative to purified industrial sugar, and how prepared is the country’s honey sector to meet that switch in any case.

That aside, are honey prices affordable?

Simon Abanyu, the chief executive officer of Delta Bees Uganda Ltd, an organisation that deals in honey and its related products, says the honey sector can be the much needed alternative to sugar.

Abanyu says honey is more expensive than sugar. For example, whereas a family of 10 can consume a kilo of sugar for at least three days, one would need honey for at least Shs10,000 for the same family size and period.

More honey production

He confirms that the honey sector in Ankole Sub-region has registered some positive strides and now produces between 180 and 200 tonnes of honey annually from a decimal 50 tonnes in the past few years.

Weighing in on the matter, Mr Vincent Kakye, a bee farmer in Rubirizi District, says: “Honey may not be the alternative to the increasing prices of sugar in the country because people are not yet aware of its benefits. People have been using honey as medicine, it is rare to see an ordinary person using honey for any other purpose other than as medicine. Currently, we sell a kilo of honey at Shs12,000.”

But Julius Murema, the chairperson of Rwampara Bee Keepers Entrepreneurs Development Association, has a different view.

“We have enough honey to substitute sugar, we are 150 bee farmers under our association, we produce 3.5 tonnes every month but there are other many farmers in Rwampara not under our association, which shows you we have enough honey,” he says.

He also argues that honey is not as expensive as people make it sound.

“For example, we sell a kilo for Shs15,000 but in my family of seven, we use about 150 grams a day. The only challenge we have in Uganda is lack of sensitisation on the health benefits and supporting the sector in terms of training of farmers,” adds.

Robert Cengkuru, the executive director of Copious Harvest Ltd, which deals in production of honey, says Uganda can produce enough honey to replace sugar if the weather is favourable.

“If the season is good and there is enough rain and enough flowers for the bees to get nector, then the answer is yes. To a large extent, the weather plays a very big role in determining whether we have enough honey or not, besides deforestation and other issues,’’ he adds.

Cengkuru says the quantity of honey can increase if farmers join cooperatives.

“If many people join and produce honey in large quantities, the price will reduce, like it does for other commodities,” he explains.

Zainabu Kizito, a businesswoman, says honey can’t replace sugar because she cannot use it, for instance, to make juice for her customers as it will change its taste.

Moses Bitunguramwe, an operator of a retail shop in Kisoro Town, says despite the increase in sugar prices, more customers buy sugar compared to honey.

Cecilia Mukade, a resident of Tororo Town, says she has been using honey as a substitute for sugar for the last five years.

“I have not faced any health complications that could arise if I had been using sugar,” she says.

Francis Biraaro, who practices apiculture in Nyange Village, Sembabule District, says, a kilo of honey costs Shs25,000 in Greater Masaka compared to a kilogramme of sugar, which costs Shs6,500.

However, Joseph Bukenya, a beekeeper in Lwengo District, says honey can be a substitute for sugar only when residents directly get involved in beekeeping.

In Yumbe District, Mophart Maffu, the director of Blessed Bee for Life , a private company that produces honey, says honey can serve as an alternative to sugar but the production and uptake is low.

He says the Ministry of Agriculture has not been supportive to apiarists in anyway.

“… anything you do to improve the quality and quantity of honey production is expensive. The taxes are very high. Recently, I ordered some machines that can process honey in big quantities from China but it cost me a lot in taxes,” he adds.

Ben Amodoi of Bena General Agencies Limited, one of the seasoned honey producers and its related products in Teso Sub-region, says in a world where diabetes and other sugar-related complications are on the rise, honey is a better alternative.

Annually, Mr Amodoi says the sub-region produces close to 100 tonnes of honey, and quite a sizable amount of its related products, but unfortunately, people are not aware of the benefits of honey.

He says there is a potential to turn the country into a honey hub if only farmers embrace the idea of beekeeping. He says what is available on the market is way too low compared to the demand.

Amodoi says if well managed, a modest beehive costing Shs65,000, can give one close to 20 kilogrammes of honey per harvest, and so if one has six beehives in the backyard, one will be rest assured of doing without sugar.

Stephen Muwanguzi, communications specialist at The Uganda National Apiculture Development Organisation (, an umbrella body mandated by the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries to coordinate beekeeping activities in the country, says honey is a major substitute to sugar, adding that it has almost the same basic composition as other types of sugar.

He adds that due to its nutritional value and health benefits, it is advisable to use honey as a substitute but in moderation, never to exceed the recommended daily amount.

Compiled by Simon Peter Emwamu, Felix Ainebyoona, Rajab Mukombozi, Tausi Nakato, Abubaker Kirunda, Philip Wafula, Robert Muhereza, Naume Biira, Joseph Omollo, Fred Wambede, Al Mahdi Ssenkabirwa, Felix Warom, Robert Elema, Scovin Iceta & Clement Aluma.

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