The beekeeping sector remains an integral part of European agriculture and has become a source of income for over 500,000 EU citizens. While the value of honey production makes a modest contribution to GDP, the real importance of the sector far exceeds that output. Considering that 84 percent of plant species and 76 percent of Europe’s food production depend on pollination by bees, a more realistic estimate of the sector’s value puts it at 14.2 million EUR annually. Honey also plays a significant role in maintaining ecological balance and biological diversity. According to MEP Norbert Erdős (Fidesz) the importance of pollination is underappreciated and taken for granted in the EU, whereas the US spends 2 billion EUR annually on artificial pollination.
Erdős, as a member of the EP Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, is urging EU leaders to put beekeeping at the heart of the common agricultural policy. Having grown up in a typical agricultural area in southeastern Hungary, the MEP says that bees should receive much more attention, protection and grants to support them as part of the EU agricultural sector.
A draft report entitled, “Prospects and challenges for the EU apiculture sector,” was authored by European beekeepers and includes concrete proposals compiled from requests by EU and national beekeeper associations, including EPBA, Copa-Cogeca, and some national agricultural chambers.
According to the report, the main difficulty for beekeepers is the spread of counterfeit honey in the internal market, which has caused the purchase price of honey to drop by 50 percent by the end of 2016 from its 2014 level. This puts Europe’s beekeepers in a hopeless position. Norbert Erdős is calling on Member States and the European Commission to force honey-producers in non-EU countries who use dishonest methods (primarily certain Chinese producers) and EU packagers and traders who wilfully mix adulterated, imported honey with high-quality European honey, to stop this fraudulent practice and fully comply with the EU law.
The draft report addresses a number of other issues important to apiculture, including various bee health issues caused by improper use of some pesticides on crops; future forms of EU support to beekeepers; promotion of honey as a healthy, local product among children; increase in honey consumption in Europe; and the qualification of honey and other bee products as “sensitive products” during the negotiations of free trade agreements with third countries.
The draft report, “Prospects and challenges for the EU apiculture sector,” along with the explanatory statement, may be found here.