New record low for honey harvest
Producers call for emergency aid, with this year's honey levels forecast to be down 50-80%
HONEY producers in France say they are fighting for survival, with this year's harvest forecast to be at a record low.
The union representing the industry, Unaf, is calling for emergency aid from the government after a survey of its 20,000 members found declines between 50 and 80 per cent on last year.
France is estimated to produce less than 10,000 tonnes of honey this year - down from 20,000 in 2011 and 32,000 in 1995.
French consumers get through about 40,000 tonnes a year, meaning three-quarters of honey will need to be imported.
The west of France and Brittany appear to have been spared, but other regions of France are said to be suffering.
High bee mortality, mainly due to pesticides, is one of the main reasons. A mild summer, coupled with episodes of wind and rain, also made it more difficult for bees to find nectar.
Producers have written to the agriculture ministry asking for emergency funding to help them make ends meet. Last year, the government made money available following the disappointing honey harvest.
Earlier this year, France outlined plans to ban farmers spraying pesticides during daylight hours, to protect bees.
The biggest problem is neonicotinoid pesticides, which first arrived on the market in the 1990s. A wide variety of crops – tomatoes, apricots, melons – are treated preventively with these chemicals which then spread to all parts of the plant.
The EU recently put a two-year moratorium on the use of three treatments on certain crops, but the measure is facing legal attacks from chemical firms and other pesticides remain in common use.