'Exceptional year' for honey output
Bees have been busy this year, with production on the rise again after 20 years of decline
HONEY production in France has started to grow after 20 years of decline, suggesting efforts to save the country's bee population are starting to work.
The French honey producers' union Unaf says output this year is estimated to be between 15,000 and 17,000 tonnes - up from a record low of about 10,000 tonnes in 2014, but still not enough to meet demand in France without importing from Asia or other European countries.
Thierry Dufresne, president of French bee observatory OFA said: "It has been an exceptional year, the best in a decade."
Good weather conditions, with plenty of sunshine and relatively few storms, have helped flowers bloom, providing a plentiful supply of nectar for bees.
In 2013, agriculture minister Stéphane Le Foll set aside €40million for a three-year "bee plan" to fund research into solutions to reduce the high number of bee deaths each year, which vary between 30 and 50% in some colonies.
Intensive use of pesticides and the chemicals found in some veterinary products used to treat cattle have been blamed. The growing population of bee-eating Asian hornets has also contributed to the decline in recent years.
Honey imports in France have multiplied by five in the past 30 years, reaching 30,000 tonnes last year, as demand for honey outstrips French supply.