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On April 9th, 2024, was held an online meeting of several beekeeping organizations from the territory of Europe.

The meeting was attended by 14 representatives of the following organizations: BEE LIFE, COPA COGECA, EPBA, UNAAPI, CONAPI, CARI and EBA.

The session was conducted by Scientific Director and Project Manager Ms. Noa Simon Delso.

EBA was represented at the meeting by Urška Ratajc from Slovenia and Peter Bross from Hungary.

The goal of the meeting was to agree on further activities aimed at promoting honey from the territory of Europe, while pointing out the shortcomings of imported honey, that is, “honey”.

The first such initiative was officially launched by the EBA at the end of March, which is one of the main goals of the establishment of the EBA, and the main initiators of the entire initiative for the organization of this meeting were larger beekeepers from Spain and Italy, who sell honey in barrels and currently cannot sell it to bottlers and processors due to the uncompetitive price compared to imported honey from Asia. Current sales prices (€2-4/kg) do not cover production costs. The current price of polyfloral honey is less than 2 euros/kg in some countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary…), which indicates that honey production in the EU is uneconomical.

A technical report with analyzes of Eurostat data on the import and consumption of honey in Europe is being prepared, and a list of trade prices of imported and domestic honey has been prepared. Based on the data from this report, a brochure and various short multimedia attachments will be prepared that all involved organizations could easily share on their websites and social networks.

It was discussed whether we want to devote ourselves only to the positive promotion of European honey or to deal with giving warnings about the quality of imported honey.

Professional beekeepers want supermarkets to be targeted because they believe they are creating this market situation by creating a demand for cheap honey of questionable quality to say the least.

Most of the participants want to implement large joint European actions, so one of the proposals was to do it on World Bee Day, May 20. Some pointed out that May is an unfavorable time because it is the peak of the beekeeping season and the beekeepers are busy, and until then we have very little time to prepare. And the EBA representatives declared that the EBA is against such an idea at that time of the year.

Another proposal was to start with smaller activities already in May and to carry out a larger action in September or October.

The idea was that a bus of beekeepers from each country would go to Brussels, where a demonstration would be organized in front of the European Parliament and protests would be held in each country, in the capital cities, in front of the Parliament or the Ministry of Agriculture, regardless of whether the country is a member state or not member of the EU, which would show the unity of European beekeepers.

As Peter Bross said, if a decision was made to organize demonstration, it would mean that beekeepers with the flags of 27 countries, plus the flags of EBA member countries that are not EU members, should represent all beekeepers in Brussels, and on the same day at the same time in the capital of each member country at least 1,000 beekeepers should demonstrate. When everything is added up, it is estimated that close to 30,000 beekeepers would demonstrate that day, which would be easy to achieve, because that is 5-7% of beekeepers.

Everyone agrees that some kind of demonstration is necessary, since one of its important messages – no matter how strange it sounds – would be addressed to ourselves(beekeepers): You are not alone!

            Several times in the discussion, it was said that big honey packers, who supply big trade chains with adulterated honey, are responsible for the situation. It was concluded that honey producers are not responsible for this situation. Honey exporters (similar to beekeepers) are only vulnerable players in the international honey market. The business policy of supermarkets is primarily responsible for the situation, because they practically have 2 goals:

  • that honey should remain cheap,
  • that honey be formally legal (with respect to the Honey Directive, which is functionally weak, it does not deal sufficiently with the naturalness of honey).

There were opinions that the marketing change of the honey market in the direction of creating a demand for domestic honey could theoretically be implemented, but that the practical realization would take many years. Such actions include the following:

  • tracking, that is, the traceability of honey from third countries to the producer level,
  • inclusion of even more parameters of honey quality and naturalness in the current Honey Directive,
  • extraordinary acceleration of the work of the reference laboratory of the European Union (JRC) in relation to honey testing,
  • unique promotion and advertising of honey produced in Europe with the support of the European Commission,
  • increasing the customs duty rate for honey coming to Europe from third countries.

Peter Bross pointed out that today consumers can not find European honey on the shelves of markets in the European Union. The question is then what kind of honey is on the shelves in the member countries. The so-called blends of EU and non-EU honeys mostly dominate. There is no honey of EU origin.

That is why it will not be easy to advertise European honey, when there is less and less of it on the market shelves. The new rules for marking honey by country of origin will greatly contribute to changing the above-mentioned picture in the coming period.

We congratulate the creator of this idea, Boštjan Noč, the president of the Beekeeping Association of Slovenia, who initiated the initiative to introduce such rules at the EU level, which was later supported by other beekeeping organizations in Europe.

In the end, it was concluded that we need a common message that would be shared in any way by all the countries or organizations involved (countries that do not want protests are not obliged to do so).

The financing of the campaign has not been discussed enough, except that it is considered that the announcements will not be expensive, because we can use the existing communication infrastructure of certain organizations (websites, social networks). The next steps are to complete the technical report, prepare a joint statement or letter, then to translate it into all languages, and to post shorter versions of the messages derived from it on social networks. Individual countries participate to the extent that they are able.

At the end, Urška Ratajc from the EBA took the floor, stressing that it is obvious that the present organizations have certain common goals with the EBA and that some cooperation will probably be possible in the future, but that she cannot comment on the details because the EBA will choose its own in the coming days leadership on the basis of the work program, and that after the elections, it will be possible to discuss more about ways of cooperation. She said that the EBA has already sent a letter to all members of the European Parliament with a similar message about the promotion of European honey, which was one of the main goals of the establishment of the EBA. She expressed her opinion on several important things: (1) that we need to focus on both the general public and decision-makers, i.e. politicians, (2) that we should emphasize the good qualities of European honey to a large extent and talk less about the poor quality of imported honey honey, (3) that it is a more suitable time for larger campaigns in the fall and (4) that we believe that the fight to raise consumer awareness is more important than the fight with the trades, because it is the demand of end consumers that shapes the market.

The representative of COPA COGECA indicated that the electronic questionnaires – which the organization prepared and asked the member countries to fill in – are widely processed, and that they contain a lot of useful information for the analysis of the market situation. The data will be published at the next meeting on April 23.

Representatives of many countries indicated  that a big problem in store chains is that the flag of the given country is on the label of the bottled honey, while the honey was not produced in the given country. The flag indicates the place of production (bottling), not the origin of the honey in the packaging (the bottled honey). It is also necessary to speak out against this at the level of the EU and the whole of Europe.

The most important message of this online meeting is that only with the cooperation of beekeepers from all over Europe and determined joint action can we achieve results in the shortest possible time, with the aim of improving the situation in the beekeeping sector, which is catastrophic in all European countries without exception.











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