Table of Contents

1. Overview

Honeybee products include honey, bee-collected pollen, royal jelly, wax, and health supplements.

Honey and wax go beyond the food market and are used in large quantities in the manufacture of beauty products, candles, lipstick, medicine, herbal tea and chewing gum. Honey is a natural anti-oxidant and can, for example, be used to extend the shelf life of meat. Other products that can be exploited are pollen, an extremely pure form of protein, propolis (a natural antiseptic), royal jelly (a health and cosmetic product) and bee venom (used medically in the desensitising of allergic people).

Many beekeepers sell their products in bulk to honey packers, or they market their products themselves. Smaller operators often sell from the home, in roadside stalls or to local cafés. The large bee farmers only farm with bees. The smaller ones usually diversify. Beekeeping does not always work on economies of scale (don’t think that a beekeeping operation will only be profitable if you have numerous hives).

Bees are the most important pollinators of agricultural crops, being responsible for about one in every three mouthfuls of food we eat each day.

Source: Mike Allsopp, Dr Connal Eardley (ARC-PPRI)


2. International business environment

There is a worldwide demand for honey and wax. The major exporters of honey are: China, Argentina, New Zealand, Germany and Mexico. The major importers are the USA, Germany, UK, France and Japan.

Most countries have strict regulations regarding the importation of honeybee products and these should be obtained from the local trade commissions. Europe, the USA and Canada require further tests against residues of pesticides in honey.

The supply and demand, foreign exchange rates, and quality of the product all play important roles in determining the world trade prices of all honeybee products.

Some international websites

Almost one in 10 of Europe’s native wild bees face extinction, according to the most comprehensive expert assessment so far. The European Red List, drawn up by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, found 9.2% of nearly 2,000 species are threatened with extinction. Another 5% are likely to be threatened in the near future.

Threats include loss of habitat from intensive farming, pesticide use, urban development and climate change.

The new assessment made a number of recommendations, including:

  • Better monitoring and assessment of common and rare species
  • More protection for habitats supporting bees
  • Regulation of trade in managed bees, which may spread diseases
  • Long-term incentives to farmers to provide habitats for bees.

The study adds to growing evidence that multiple environmental pressures are driving the loss of bees both in the wild and in hives.

Insect pollination has an estimated economic value of 15bn euros per year in the EU alone.

Source: (adapted)