Due to unfair competition from China, Croatian producers have a hard time reaching consumers.
EU citizens eat on average 0.7 kg of honey per year. Since production is smaller than demand, the only solution is the import of honey, with 50 percent coming from China. The country has become the world’s largest producer of honey with 473,600 tonnes, compared to 161,031 tonnes produced every year in the EU, reports Glas Slavonije on November 7, 2017.
Data from the Food and Agriculture Organization show that production in China in the period from 2000 to 2014 rose by 88 percent. Just in 2016, the country earned 231 million euros from the sale of honey. However, it is interesting to note that the number of Chinese hives from 2000 to 2014 increased by only 21 percent. Did the Chinese somehow manage to make bees produce four times more honey? The answer is in the Chinese production methods, which do not have many similarities with the natural honey which European consumers expect. However, much of that honey reaches the European and Croatian market.
Croatia exports much higher-quality honey, which costs between 3 and 3.5 euros, and imports honey which costs 2 to 2.5 euros. This suggests that the imports probably do not have particularly high quality standards.
Agriculture Minister Tomislav Tolušić recently reported that Croatian producers, about 11,500 of them, with more than 500,000 hives, produce between 8,000 to 11,000 tonnes of honey each year, depending on climatic conditions. “We import about a thousand tonnes of honey, which means there is room to increase local production,” he said.
Tolušić pointed out that the Agriculture Ministry had recently issued a rule regarding the designation of honey and honey products, according to which each jar must state precisely the country of origin. “People should buy honey with a label saying it was produced in Croatia because that is surely the best honey available and in that way, you cannot make a mistake. All honey which has the Croatian Agricultural Agency (HPA) label ‘Honey from Croatian Hives’ is produced under strict controls and you can be confident that it was made on Croatian meadows,” Tolušić said.
The thousands of tonnes of honey which are imported bring another disadvantage, in addition to low quality, and that is the labelling issue. Honey is regulated by EU directives, but the requirements for the declaration of origin are not very strict. The label can merely read “blend of honey from the EU”, “blend of honey from outside the EU”, or “blend of honey from the EU and non-EU countries.”
“Most honey which you see on the shelves in the EU have the ‘EU and non-EU countries’ declaration, which means there are no real standards. Information on the declarations does not tell consumers anything except that honey is not from Mars,” said Walter Haefeker, director of the European Beekeepers Association.
Cheaper honey imports threaten all beekeepers in the EU, including Croatia. Data show that added sugar was found in one-tenth of honey samples tested at the European Joint Research Centre.
Translated from Glas Slavonije.