While many countries have been struggling to maintain their honey industry, Romania has increased its honey production enough to become the European Union’s largest producer. In 2015, Romania produced almost 40,000 tons of honey and 20,000 in 2014, with the second and third largest EU producers being Spain and Hungary, who brought in 32,200 and 30,700 tons respectively. Favorable geographic conditions, a sound rural population, and an impressive degree of biodiversity may be some of the reasons behind Romania’s success.
Even further, EU subsidies that co-finance beekeeping programs at 50 percent may have also encouraged Romania’s growth. The funds provided by the EU are determined by the number of beehives a country has. Romania has the third largest beehive count in the EU behind Spain and France. In 2016’s first quarter, Romania registered a 14 percent increase in honey production compared to 2015, proving market growth. However, Romania’s remarkable numbers may be short-lived.
Over the summer, excessive rainfall supposedly affected bee colonies and honey production to the point that Romanian beekeepers referred to their agricultural ministry for help. They went so far as to say that 2016 was set to be one of the worst times for Romanian beekeepers in the last 30 years. On the other hand, more EU subsidies may offer some help in the future. For 2017-2019, Romania has acquired just over ten percent of the $77 million in apiculture funds. Along with financial support, the EU has led to greater economic opportunities for Romanian beekeepers who can sell to a broader market. Even foreign investors have shown interest in Romania’s honey business.
“We buy honey from specific local beekeepers,” says Jim Turnbull, a Scottish producer who makes a range of foodstuffs in Saschiz. “Before we buy the honey we must test it…as we claim that it’s wildflower meadow honey or acacia honey, so we have to verify the pollen counts…we have access to wonderful ingredients here, we’re all about producing stuff that has taste.” With the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the EU, Turnbull mentioned his concerns for his company’s growth. “Who knows what the future is going to bring us in terms of difficulties in crossing borders. I have all sorts of fears for the future.”
Romania exports over half of its honey production. At least 80 percent of its honey goes to Germany, followed by Spain and Nordic countries. Ironically, despite being EU’s largest producer of honey, the country’s own consumption is at the bottom of EU’s list. Whether Romania will stay afloat depends on the changing market and climate. As long as beekeepers are provided with the right resources, they should be able to handle whatever comes their way.
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