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Azerbaijan Out to Improve Honeybee Gene Pool

January 08, 2018

Honey, Honey Bees, Honey Industry

In Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan, which is a small country bordering Armenia, Iran, and the Caspian Sea, the country’s Agriculture Ministry, along with the help of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), hosted a seminar for a new project they’re implementing: “Improving living standards of rural population through increasing productivity in beekeeping.” As many other countries around the world are doing, this project is aiming to increase the productivity of the local Caucasian honeybee while also enhancing the skillset of beekeepers to increase honey production per honeycomb. By doing this, the country hopes to increase both the living conditions and income of its beekeepers, which could have a significant impact on Azerbaijan’s economy.

As part of this national project, gene pool honeybee nurseries were started in the Research Institute of Animal Breeding’s Beekeeping Center. To find the pure genetic lineage of gray mountain Caucasian honeybees, insect samples from different Azerbaijani regions were gathered and sent to Ankara, Turkey where genetic and biological analyses were done. “Samples of bees were selected from a total of 56 beekeepers from 28 villages of Azerbaijan for examination,” says Asef Omarov, the project’s coordinator. “For selection purposes, 125 bees were sent to back to Azerbaijan. They were delivered to both nurseries. Presently, these bees are used as pure genetic material.”

With the FAO’s help, this project was officially launched back in 2015, costing around $200,000 thus far. Melek Cakmak, who heads the FAO Partnership and works as a liaison, said the FAO will keep supporting the development of Azerbaijan’s beekeeping industry and plans to launch another project in 2018. “This project is the continuation of the first one,” says Cakmak. “We have already supported improvement of the gene pool of honeybees. The new project will be aimed at increasing the export potential of Azerbaijani honey, which is the best in the world, according to many experts.”

According to Galib Abdulaliyev, who is the head of the Agriculture Ministry’s animal breeding department, Azerbaijan aims to improve its honey intake. “Every year, 10 kilograms of honey are collected from each bee family in Azerbaijan. This is a very low indicator, since in other countries, the average annual yield of each bee family is 20.5 kilograms of honey. As a result, only 280 grams of honey accounts for one person in Azerbaijan. We intend to bring this figure to one kilogram.” By Abdulaliyev’s estimate, Azerbaijan has roughly 6,000 beekeepers at present.

Honey demand in Azerbaijan comes out to about 5,000 tons, and around 2,000 tons of that must be imported. Both increasing honey intake and building up the beekeeping industry will bring about incredible benefits for the small country, so we will just have to see how their endeavors pay off.

Copyright: zeferli / 123RF Stock Photo

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