EUROPEAN HONEY producers have warned on a 'distressing market situation' and called for intervention from Brussels.

According EU farm union, Copa-Cogeca, last year was bleak for European beekeeping. There was a drop in honey production in the main producing and exporting countries in the south and east of the EU, caused by poor climatic conditions, but no balancing increase in the market price.

The problem is increasing imports at low prices particularly from China, at an average price of 1.24 €/kg – whereas the average production costs in the EU were last estimated at 3.90€/kg. According to Copa Cogeca, the only explanation for this disparity was, bluntly, systemic food fraud on the part of the Chinese.

"This difference in prices can only be explained by the major addition of sugar syrup which is cheaper for production and difficult to detect during border controls in Europe. By definition, the honey production method in China that does not conform to European standards," it warned.

Faced with this market situation, the European honey producers and Copa-Cogeca members have appealed to the European authorities for a strong and rapid response, and proposed concrete measures to help more than 650,000 European beekeepers keep their heads above water. Otherwise, the viability of the European beekeeping sector was at risk, and the EU’s self-sufficiency in honey.

Chair of the Copa-Cogeca working party on honey, Etienne Bruneau, said: “If the market situation does not improve, the European beekeepers who derive a significant part of their income from beekeeping will not be able to continue. This threatens the existence of more than 10 million beehives throughout the EU. Yet, beekeeping and the pollination services it provides, together with wild pollinators, are essential for European farming and horticulture as well as biodiversity. This situation therefore threatens other sectors in addition to our own.”

Among C-C's proposals is a clampdown on any honey imported from third countries, with testing to ensure that it conforms to the EU's definition of honey, most notably for honey coming from China, and in particular batches over 20 tonnes. In addition, origin labelling should be introduced on all blends of honey, and a European reference laboratory for honey must be created, to work in close collaboration with a European honey market observatory.