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Creating a buzz for wild honey

Wild honey on display at Park Hyatt’s Masters of Food and Wine lunch.
Wild honey on display at Park Hyatt’s Masters of Food and Wine lunch. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Creating a buzz for wild honey

NatureWild, a Phnom Penh offshoot of the Philippines-based Non-Timber Forest Products - Exchange Program for South and Southeast Asia, hopes to start marketing Siem Reap province wild honey as part of its Khmum Prey project or ‘wild bees from the forest’ range.

At the moment the project markets a range of wild honey from six Cambodian provinces, and this range was introduced on June 6 at a Park Hyatt Hotel’s Masters of Food and Wine lunch which featured a six-course honey-laced gourmet feast.

Femy Pinto, a representative of NatureWild, said the range of honey was available at a limited number of outlets in Siem Reap including the Park Hyatt, and added that as well as boosting the number of retail outlets in Siem Reap, the organisation hoped soon to include wild honey from Siem Reap province in its Khmum Prey range.

“It will be great to see Khmum Prey Siem Reap some time soon,” she told Insider. “We’re quite pleased that Park Hyatt supports Khmum Prey and this can help us get on that platform of quality for a discerning market – quality for a community friendly, nature and environment-friendly market.

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“We are still exploring the appropriate entry point in Siem Reap. Our usual entry point is with traditional honey-hunting groups – forest-dependents – and to match up with existing efforts to protect Cambodia’s last remaining forest areas.

“This is a long-term effort and so it is important that we identify the group that will be in it as a vital part of their livelihood, rather than simply out of business interest or quick cash.”

She added, “There are some potential areas under community forestry and protected areas in Siem Reap which we are exploring, and wild honey collection is one of the main sources of income of the communities living in or around them.”

NatureWild has already conducted a preliminary investigation of the wild honey activity in Siem Reap province which, according to Femy Pinto, is, “Largely still informal with limited value addition being done. As far as we know most of honey sold in the market comes from individual suppliers – private efforts rather than out of a collective business.

“Bee keeping via the rafter technique has attracted village entrepreneurs, who are partly supplying the local market of Siem Reap. There are buyers in Siem Reap catering specifically to the tourist market but some get their honey supply from outside Siem Reap. Price and quality are key factors for these buyers.

“But Khmum Prey marketed by NatureWild follows sustainable collection standards with strict monitoring and quality control. If and when we find our best entry point here in Siem Reap, adherence to these protocols will factor into the partnership.

“For sure we can easily tap into the existing, more discerning market in Siem Reap with an assurance of quality, purity and authenticity, and sustainable production and forest protection that Khmum Prey represents.”

During their research into the Siem Reap honey scene, NatureWild staffers drew on the expertise of high-profile local bee man Danny Jump and Femy Pinto said that meeting Jump was instructional. “Yes definitely. He is THE bee man. Very knowledgeable about bees and beekeeping and I understand that he’s also supported a number of villagers here in Siem Reap and even outside, about beekeeping, and the rafter technique. He would be a good person to collaborate with.”

Femy Pinto said she was also surprised to find a chic boutique in the town’s South Korean enclave selling high-end honey to mainly Asian tourists, especially South Koreans.

The boutique, Natural Honey, was opened just on a year ago by Korean expat Hong Seung Hee, and sells wild honey from Ratanakiri, as well as hand-made beeswax candles and bee by-products – but at a cost. The cheapest pot of honey on sale at the store, 500ml, costs $60, and three-litre jars are $350.

Femy Pinto described the honey store as, “fascinating.” She added, “We just happened to see it across from a hotel where we were having a workshop a few months ago. They get their honey from Ratanakiri, not from Siem Reap, and the price is quite staggering.

“We have had a few Koreans buy from NatureWild and they are very particular about the naturalness-authenticity and the purity of the honey. A Korean friend of mine says it is important that they trust you to give them ‘real’ honey since they are mainly consuming it for health reasons.”

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