French beekeepers get €3m boost but industry critical

Beekeepers have been given three million euros, but a union says the measure does not go far enough

The French beekeeping industry is to receive a three-million-euro boost from the government, the Ministry of Agriculture has confirmed, although a beekeeper union has said this does not go far enough.

Stéphane Travert, the Minister for Agriculture, confirmed the money this week, but the vice-president of national beekeeping union, Loïc Leray at l’Union Nationale de l’Apiculture Française (UNAF), has hit back, questioning the helpfulness of the move, and condemning it as “largely insufficient”.

Mr Leray, who is himself also a beekeeper, spoke out this week, saying that the government is not moving fast enough to help young, threatened beekeepers; and that the money will not be enough to shore up the industry’s problems in the long term.

Mr Leray said that the government should also look at the use of pesticides, and take other measures to address wider problems of biodiversity and the environment at the same time.

He said: “The priority should be to help young, in-trouble beekeepers, [with the money offered] taking into account the [dire] financial state of many of these farms.”

The measures by which beekeepers can access the money are not precise enough, Mr Leray added, saying that “they look good on paper” but it may take too long for “the cheques” to arrive, as the solution is not “suitable for the urgency of the issue”.

Mr Leray said that the money could become a “derisory sum” if it was not accompanied by moves to improve the quality of the environment at the same time.

He said: “We have been played around for 20 years. One figure speaks for itself - a 12% rise in the use of pesticides in 2018, despite our efforts to spark debate on the issue of biodiversity. These words are nice, but on the ground, we’re suffering. We are seeing the breakdown of biodiversity, the disappearance of our livestock, and nothing is changing.”

Mr Leray said that there was hope for beekeepers, but only “on the condition that we really apply the rules of respect towards the environment. We need to definitively stop using any kind of neonicotinoids in the country. It will take time to wash away from our earth; at least four or five years”.

He added: “Imagine another part of the agricultural world losing 30-40% of its production every year. Some of my colleagues have lost 80-90% of their livestock. I am very worried for spring 2019.

“So yes, there is a nice sum [of cash] that has been promised, but in my opinion that is not going to save the farmers in peril. We should have had more urgent measures in place for some time before now. We have to understand just how much this little insect [the bee] helps us.”

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