Farm commodities that are grown to sell for profit and purchased by parties separate from a farm are seen as cash crops. Coffee, cotton, and honey are produced for sale in South and Western Ethiopia. As honey emerged as a cash commodity, farmers in Northern Ethiopia became involved in honey production as an income source. Studies on honey production have focused on central, south, and western Ethiopia. Northern and eastern Ethiopia are perceived as arid and most degraded, and they are not favorable for beekeeping. This study analyzes the market chain of honey production and questions why farmers engage contrary to the literature and established perceptions. A questionnaire was administered to a total of 1609 honey farmers who were selected randomly from the list of beekeepers in the agricultural office, including desk reviews and key informant interviews. Both descriptive and inferential statistical analyses were conducted. The descriptive data results show that nine out of ten honey products in the market are supplied by smallholders to consumers and retailers. Out of this, six out of seven are supplied directly to consumers. The inferential data results indicate that producers' experience, income, bee colony size, use of modern hives, and the lagged price of honey determine the marketable supply of honey. Both data results confirm that honey production is profitable in Northern Ethiopia. The use of modern beehives enhances productivity and income by 27%. However, shortages of bee forage (due to drought-induced changes), credit, technologies, knowledge, markets, and bee diseases are key problems for beekeepers that require policy intervention.
Key words: Honey value chain, profitability, productivity, market surplus, northern Ethiopia.
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