The number of beekeepers in the EU is decreasing but, the number of hives is increasing.
At least it’s something that is concluded from the last report of European commission about beekeeping. It is the report that is used as analysis of National beekeeping programmes founded with 33 million euro per year from the EU budget. The objective of these programmes is to improve general conditions for production and marketing apiculture products, which include not only honey but also royal jelly, pollen, propolis or beeswax. The programmes are co-financed by the European Union at a 50% rate and last for three years.
Countries that are involved in the analysis reported 15.7 millions hives in period from 2013–2015, that’s 12% more than the number that was reported in the period before 2011–2013.
As report said, with a production of around 250 000 tonnes per year the EU is the second world producer of honey after China. The EU does not produce enough honey to cover its own consumption. In 2015, the rate of self-sufficiency was around 60%. Conditions of production are deteriorating, costs of production are increasing and growing imports of cheaper honey from third countries create a situation of increasing competition.
Prices of honey vary greatly according to quality and point of sale. For multi-floral honey, the range of prices go from 2.54€/kg to 15.18€/kg.
EU imports have been increasing year after year. In 2015, the EU imported around 200 000 tonnes of honey, representing in volume around 75% of EU total production. Half of these imports came from China the other two main suppliers were Mexico and Ukraine. Honey imported from third countries is much cheaper than honey produced in the EU. In 2015, the average import unit price for Chinese honey was 1.64€/kg. Due to higher production costs EU producers can hardly compete with imported honey.
In 2015, the EU exported around 20 000 tonnes of honey, representing in volume around 8% of EU total production. The EU exports mainly to markets looking for high quality honey in Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Japan, the USA and Canada. In 2015, the average export unit price was 5.77€/kg.
According to data provided in the 2014–2016 programmes, there were around 16 millions beehives in the EU. The five Member States with the largest numbers of beehives are mainly located in the South of the EU: Spain, France, Greece, Romania and Italy. The Commission does not have new data on the number of beehives compared to the last report. Updated figures will not be available before 2017
According to data provided in the 2017–2019 programmes, there were around 600 000 beekeepers in the Union. The number of EU beekeepers has been decreasing. Many beekeepers who leave the sector for reasons of age are not replaced by newcomers. We can just hope that the number will start to increase soon. Otherwise we will need to import more honey from the China and similar markets.