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Beekeepers warn: “The situation is critical, low production, sharp costs and flooded with Chinese honey”

“We are in a very difficult situation, now we are selling at a low price for production costs, beekeeping is not like other types of cattle that you have next to you. I have bees at 250 miles and I have to go see them. “- says Antonio Vasquez, Coordinator for Beekeeping (COAG) in Andalusia Farmers and Farmers’ Organizations. “Climate change is added to the price of fuel, because not a drop fell in March, there were no bees. Then suddenly it was raining and by the time we had the nettle bloom, the flowering had already disappeared. It is drought now. “It is a critical situation because we have low urticaria, low production, rising costs, and they are filling us with Chinese honey,” he said.

More than 35,000 beekeepers are working in Spain, according to the latest data published by the Ministry of Agriculture, for March 2021. Only 18% of them are professionals, those whose farm has more than 150 ska.

This is the case of Carlos Zafra, a beekeeper from Murcia, who also saw production fall as a result of late rains last spring. Instead, their costs are rising sharply. “We get 50% less harvest in this region. Last year, an average of 30,000 euros was spent. “We are 25% or 35% more this year because we beekeepers have to move their hives,” said Zafra.

It weighs, first and foremost, the price of fuel in this transhuman, which now bees in Castile and leads to Leon. “But we are one of the forgotten sectors, we did not have any help, we do not have agricultural or professional diesel. When there was a strike of trains many beekeepers joined because in the depths they are also trains, even if they are bees. “- he adds.

“It’s not just fuel, food has increased,” explains Antonio Prieto of the Union of Small Farmers and Farmers (UPA). This refers to the sugar and glucose that bees feed on when there is no flowering. “A kilo of this extra food was about 1.25 euros and now it is 2 euros. The cost increase would have been minimized if production had been consistent. Until April we were optimistic, but a heat wave came and destroyed the flowers. No, there is dust. There is no nectar.” – he sums up. “It is too early to make a forecast for the whole year, but we are going to be 50% less.” Production, which is primarily concentrated in the southern half of the peninsula.

Beekeepers criticize the stagnation of prices, despite the decline in production, which, in theory, should force them. The latest price data from the Ministry of Agriculture corresponds to more than a year ago, in April 2021. Then the price of honey was rising, the growth of bulk honey in the multiflora variety was 14.59%; And 5.51% in packaged multiflora; Above 4.5 euros per kilo and 7 euros, respectively.

They talk about reducing local production and, in turn, increasing imports. “From January to March 2022, Spanish operators purchased a total of 9,198 tons of honey, which is 1,057 tons more in the same quarter of 2021,” – said the last. Report on honey imports Prepared by the COAG Secretary of State for Commerce and published in early June. “The level of honey purchases in this first quarter was very similar to the first quarter of 2017, the year where the highest level of honey imports was in recent years.

An additional problem arises here, leading to inconsistencies in the sector between manufacturers and packers and marketers. Where does this imported honey come from? Why was significantly less honey coming in from China than it was a few years ago and, at the same time, growing it from countries like Portugal, Uruguay, or Ukraine before the conflict?

“The beekeeping sector has been suffering for years from imports and the helplessness of the Spanish and European authorities, who are not taking action on this issue,” Carlos Zafra criticized. “A year and a half ago, the label showed the country of origin of honey, but we realized that Chinese honey had disappeared from store shelves. “This is not the first year. Honey from China is a triangle. Ukraine started through Turkey, through Bulgaria, and now it looks like Portugal,” said Antonio Prieto. “But these are doubts, because Portugal is a country that produces a little and exports a lot, at very low prices, 1.60 euros, when we have an observatory here that says we are 2.50 or 2.80 kilos.”

“Massive triangles of Chinese honey will return to Spain from other countries via Portugal in the first quarter of 2022,” the COAG said in a quarterly report. “At the same time, when Portuguese operators sold 2261 tons of honey to the Spanish industry at an average of 2.05 euros / kg, they bought 2563 tons from other countries at very low prices (mainly China, Cuba and India). . “- indicates the agrarian union. “Based on the analysis of this foreign trade data, our assessment is that the honey that the Spanish industry does not buy directly from China – as it used to be – has been circling in the triangle of our society’s other countries for several years. “In this first quarter of 2022, mostly from Portugal.”

This is not the first time COAG has spoken of triangles. At the end of last year, the Consumer Organization together with the OCU published a report entitled “A mysterious case of Chinese honey‘. In it, he points out a gap in the EU Customs Code that would allow honey to be mixed in intermediate countries, in the above-mentioned triangle, to avoid saying that honey comes from outside the EU.

“We understand that in the case of honey from a third country (imported by any operator from an EU Member State) mixed (and, if necessary, also heated) with honey harvested in an EU Member State. Which accounts for more than 50% by weight of the final mixture, the mixture may originate in an EU Member State that accounts for more than 50% by weight of the final mixture, ”the report said. That is, after mixing in the intermediate country, it appears on the labels as a market of origin. At this time, the Ministry of Agriculture has not indicated to whether it is analyzing this situation. Consumer Affairs ensures that “Labeling is something that needs to be worked on within the EU and competencies are the subject of MAPA, which sets the characteristics. We, as COAG, continue to study consumer issues to ensure maximum customer information. ”

The basis for this analysis is the collapse of imports from China in recent years. In 2015, 17,847 tonnes of honey were imported from China, accounting for almost 80% of all EU imports, according to statistics released by Agriculture. In contrast, by 2020 it was 4770, slightly less than 31%. In contrast, Uruguay and Ukraine moved from 784 and 822 tons to 5818 and 1246 tons, respectively. “China has significantly reduced its volumes and made Portugal our main supplier of honey by 21% growth in 2020,” the report said, without elaborating on the details of bilateral trade. The neighboring country had 762,667 urticaria cases during the pandemic year, which is 4% of the total EU; Compared to more than 2.9 million in Spain, a total of 12% of the population.

The label should indicate where the honey comes from, although they do not specify the percentage by origin. In May 2020, the government amended Royal Decree 1049/2003 on the honey quality standard. It specifically stated that “the label must indicate the country or countries of origin where the honey and, if necessary, its mixtures were collected.”

The association, which includes traders and packers, Asemiel-Animpa, tells that the report, published by COAG and the OCU in late 2021, “was based on speculation rather than confirmation. In other words, they have never been able to prove what they were saying or hypothesizing. ” “On the other hand, the regulations themselves do not leave the door open to comply with the statement made in the report,” which means a regulatory change approved a year and a half ago. “All Asemiel-Animpa associations (almost 90% of the packaging sector) work on these and other issues: law enforcement and very thorough analysis, which goes beyond the guarantees required by the administrations themselves without any doubt. The origin of honey.

The association points out that “honey is a single ingredient that can have many different origins. By law, all countries of origin must be specified when the primary ingredient is the result of a mixture. It should be noted that all honey marketed in Spain, regardless of its origin and blend, has all the guarantees of authenticity and purity. We insist that consumers today are well informed about the geographical origin of the honey they are buying, ”due to the aforementioned 2020 change. “Although this commitment must be at the level of all EU honey packers,” Nuance said.

One of the major brands in the sector, Granja San Francisco, claims that in its case it violates the origins. “If our brand of honey can contains honey from three countries, we put three countries; And if it’s Spanish, it’s Spanish, ”said Adam Foods, a parent company that also owns Panrico, Cuétara or Aneto broth. “And in no container is Granja San Francisco Chinese honey,” he emphasizes.

Employers, on the other hand, point out that in Spain, as a rule, honey production is in short supply relative to domestic consumption, with a self-sufficient 88% by 2020. In the same year, per capita consumption was 0.8 kg, which increased the actual consumption. Packaged honey in households has increased from 11 kilograms to 13.5 kilograms compared to 2019. In particular, the association lists that honey consumption in Spain totals 38,000 tonnes while 33,000 are produced, less than 32,000 tonnes are imported and almost 28,000 are exported.

“Europe has a shortage of honey and we know we have to import honey, but we want to know where the honey from abroad comes in, but it is known where it comes from,” Antonio Vasquez said. . “There is an obligation on the labels to say that there is honey from other countries, but there is no obligation to say interest. This is legal, but the information is hidden from the consumer,” said the head of UPA Beekeeping. Direction. “Moreover, control in other countries is not the same as in other countries. We always have doubts about the origin of countries,” Prieto suggested.

Source: El Diario





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