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The specialist international beekeeping organisation
To export honey to the EU, a number of requirements must be met.
Some of these are primary requirements, essential for export and must be achieved first. Secondary requirements are also necessary, but can fall into place once the primary requirements have been met.
An exporter must offer a quality product of a volume and price that can compete with other honeys in the market place. Usually honey that is exported is not sold directly by beekeepers into the export market but first consolidated by a processor, honey trader, exporter or co-operative. These exporters must have the finance, expertise and commitment to engage in honey export and sufficient resources to buy adequate volumes of honey from beekeepers.
In Africa this is the biggest challenge facing the beekeeping industry - not because total production is low, but because it is difficult to efficiently consolidate large volumes ready for export in one place.
For any non-EU country to access EU markets it is essential that the country of origin of the honey has been accepted by the EC as a third country eligible to export honey - and this is achieved through the preparation, implementation and submission of a Residue Monitoring Plan (RMP). National governments must identify a Competent Authority to take responsibility for managing a Residue Monitoring System within the country and submitting a RMP annually to the EU.
Click here for more information on RMPs.
In Africa achieving a RMP is not a major obstacle where a Competent Authority is committed to achieving this. In recent years new countries have been listed for the first time such as Ethiopia and Cameroon.
The greatest threats to the global honey trade are residues of medicines used to control bee diseases, or other extraneous chemicals. It is the responsibility of beekeepers to harvest honey that is free from residues and this is dependent on the way they manage the health of their bee colonies i.e. proper apiary management.
In Africa this is rarely a problem, whereas in many other parts of the world it is the greatest problem. Clean honey is Africa's biggest advantage on the global market!
(a) is your country on the EU list ?
(b) do you have significant quantities of good quality honey ?
If the answer is yes to both of these, the buyer will then ask for a sample. The buyer will check the sample according to legal parameters (is it pure honey? it is free of contaminants?) and subjective parameters such as colour and taste. If acceptable, negotiations will then follow about price. Throughout these early negotiations the buyer will also be considering whether the exporter is a good communicator and appears professional. African honey can pass tests concerned with the legal parameters. However, the colour and taste of African honey has characteristics which are not familiar to some EU consumers. The special and unique features of African honey must be promoted.
EU law is strict about food safety and an EU buyer who puts African honey on the market is taking responsibility for the safety of that honey for human consumption. If any problem is identified the buyer will want to remove that honey from the supply chain. As a result a buyer will ask all honey exporters to implement a traceability system, which is a record-keeping process which enables all honey to be traced back to the apiary from where it came. Traceability systems are not difficult to implement but it does mean that exporters cannot buy honey from informal traders unable to provide evidence of the origin of the honey. Traceability systems can only work when the exporters know their suppliers.
Traceability systems start with the beekeepers. Beekeepers must mark their buckets as they deliver honey to the collection centre. These marks must be transferred to containers used for transport and storage at every stage.
Honey, as the bees make it, is safe to eat. It is the subsequent handling, transport and storage of honey which may cause honey to become unsafe to eat. For example, if honey is stored in the same factory as a toxic pesticide it may become contaminated and pose a risk to human health. A HACCP plan is a document which shows that possible problems which may occur (such as mentioned above) have been considered and steps have been taken to prevent them from occuring. An EU buyer purchasing honey from an exporter in Africa may ask to see the HACCP plan for the factory where the honey is processed and stored. It is not likely that a buyer will ask for a HACCP plan for a small rural collection centre.
An EU buyer may ask to see a HACCP plan for the honey processing factory.
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