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Honey production set to hit a low

Apiculteurs to get financial aid after poor spring weather keeps bees in their hives and not producing honey

HONEY production in France is set to hit its lowest level in history after poor spring weather kept bees in their hives.

Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll has launched an aid programme for apiculteurs as he said that many of them were in very difficult situations.

Since March, he said apiculteurs had faced “exceptionally poor climatic conditions” that did not allow their bees to leave the hive as they could not come out below 12C or in rain.

The bees had had to use the hive’s honey reserves to feed themselves and, once that was gone, farmers fed their bees to save their colonies. They had been able to take off virtually no spring honey, leaving them stretched financially.

Now, after talks with agriculture development group FranceAgriMer, Mr Le Foll is offering financial aid to farmers along with an easing of social charges.

In February Mr Le Foll launched a development plan to boost the honey-making industry in February as France imports twice as much honey as it produces – and the number of producers has tumbled over the years.

In 2010, France produced 18,300 tonnes of honey – which was already down 28% from 2004 – but consumed 40,000 tonnes. Over the same period, the number of apiculteurs with 30 or more hives fell by 40%, and the number of big honey production units, with more than 300 hives, fell by 12%.

Although there are still more than one million hives in France, each year about 4,500 apiculteurs are leaving the industry after problems caused by high bee mortality due mainly to pesticides.
Photo: John Severns

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