Commercial beekeeping can be a very lucrative enterprise.
But you must ensure bees are not exposed to pesticides, and ant prevention is an absolute daily requirement.
Because it is such a new industry in Cambodia, almost every segment of this industry is open to competition. Almost 100% of the equipment and bees in Cambodia now are imported with a substantial mark up.
Anyone with the knowledge and capital could dominate this industry on equipment supply, bee supply, and honey brokerage.
While this document is not a business plan per se, it should provide you with enough information to perform your due diligence. some of the other directories on this website should help you to understand more about beekeeping.
At the basic level let us first consider a single basic production unit without reference to transport, building, electricity etc.
I will be using my own hive design, the 13 frame migratory hive which is designed for local conditions and uses standard Langstroth frames.
This box with an 8 frame imported nucleus colony and 5 frames of wax foundation along with a further top level box with 13 frames will cost $340 including the stand.
It will then take between 60-90 days for the bees to draw out the foundation wax into combs, largely dependent on whether you happen to get a young queen with the imported colony. Plan to requeen all your imported colonies during the build up phase. At that point ( 60 days if you feed them ) you should have a viable honey producing colony.
Depending on location and season, you can expect around 4-5 kg of honey from this box each month. This can be substantialy increased if you can move the bees onto strong nectar flows like longan, lychee, rubber, sugar palm, coconut and others.
The current semi wholesale price for honey is $20/kg.
The needs of an apiary are a building to store materials, clean running water, electricity, and an area within the building that can be screened from bees during extraction of honey. A truck or pickup with trailer are also essential in the long run.
A great deal of the cost of a production colony is the bees themselves.
For this reason and others relating to colony health, you will need to learn queen bee rearing so you can produce your new beehives at a greatly reduced cost.
You will need 10 colonies to start out, any less than this, and expansion will be too slow. If you want to have less than 10 you can, but it will be a hobby rather than the first step to creating a business.
With 10 bee hives, you can create a cell builder colony and produce up to 15 queens reliably every week, and put them into inexpensive 5 frame nucleus boxes to expand.
You will need around 60 of these 5 frame boxes along with your 10 strong hives.
By using this method, your production unit cost will fall to around $180, even greater savings can be realized if you are prepared to buy some power tools, and make the boxes yourself.
The cycle to completion of a production colony is about 12- 16 weeks. If you are prepared to feed them this could be as low as 10 weeks.
Propagating the bees and making new colonies can be a very lucrative business endpoint in itself, with each new colony worth between $150-200 depending on how many frames. in this model you can make 15 each week. Expect to buy a lot more frames and boxes by week 4 of your queen rearing program as you will need more by this time as your original 10 colonies will have added 60 colonies and will begin to boom by week 6 requiring rehousing into larger boxes, or selling off to make room for more. Even at a discounted wholesale price that is over $6000 worth of product in 6 weeks which is about midpoint for a generational cycle once the process is established.
The 5 frame nucleus colonies can also serve as queen mating boxes whereby you sell the queens for $20-30 and add a new queen cell to that nucleus.
As you can see this is a much higher return than honey production, but requires a high degree of management.
When you have reached this level, you will need to be sending any surplus unsold colonies to honey production duty.
How much will it cost to start?
10 double 13 frame migratory hives with bees $3400
60 5 frame nucleus boxes $1200
300 frames with foundation $1000
frame feeders $200
Within 2 months:
120 standard langstroth hive bodies $1800
1200 sheets foundation $ 1200
60 top and bottom $1380
You will of course have started more nucs in the 5 frame boxes, so at this point perhaps around month 4 or 5 you will have you original 10 hives, plus 60 double langstroth hives, plus 60 nucs
At a cost of $10,240 more or less with a market value of
10 original hives $3400
60 new hives @ $300 each for quick sale $18,000
60 nucs discounted to 110 each for the sake of conservatism $6600
grand total 28,000 so lets build in a little conservative factor and stretch a single cycle- and call this end of month 6. a net of $17,760 if all goes well and a capacity for expansion from this point which is exponential
You can continue with this cycle and produce 60 new hives a month, or go to full scale production cell building hives and produce hundreds or thousands of queens/nucs per month. The limiting factors are wood ware, pollen and sugar, all of which are commodities available on the open market just the same as chicken or pig food.
There are of course consultancy and training fees on top of this, as well as a few other pieces of equipment.
I would advise you to be wary of beekeepr’s advice from the Indochina region as their management techniques are very outdated and result in poor quality product.
I have purposely kept this simplistic, and focused on the production side of the business.
By starting in a small way it gives the staff the time they need to understand the training and management,and learn the best techniques to assure quality and productivity.
A small honey production company employing 5 people to manage 500 colonies could gross around $300,000 per year and possibly 30 % more with good management and luck with the weather.