HONEY production has dropped to its lowest level in 20 years and has been halved over the past three years as bees are dying in unprecedented numbers: with pesticides and parasites being blamed.
Last year French hives produced just 10,000 tonnes of honey and France’s consumption of 40,000 tonnes was only met by massive imports of honey. This is a massive drop since 1995 when production was 32,000 tonnes and 20,000 in 2011.
Now MPs have voted on an outright ban on certain neonicotinoid pesticides from the start of next year. These damage honey bees’ nervous system and new research has confirmed they cause a slump in the bees’ performance.
The ban was voted against the advice of the government but was a victory for the beekeepers’ federation UNAF, which had called for action to save the industry.
With pesticides and parasites being largely blamed for the fall in bee numbers, last year was also particularly badly hit by poor weather, especially high winds.
Beekeepers saw mortality of between 50% and 80% in regions such as Provence-Alpes Côte d'Azur, Rhône-Alpes, Midi-Pyrénées and Languedoc-Roussillon.
Parasites such as the asian hornet now cover three quarters of France and beekeepers have attacked Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll for not acting on a promise to have them targeted as Class 1 pests.
However, there is a growing number of beekeepers with numbers back to 70,000 commercial producers across the country and a rise to 1.3million hives. This matches the levels seen in 2011.
Despite falling production in France – only the west and Brittany were relatively spared by the slump – there is no fall in demand as the average consumer in France eats 600g of honey a year and only one in four does not eat any at all.