(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. More information
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. more about HACCP.
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