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Question from a beekeeper in the UK
Will the work of Bees for Development cause an influx of cheap honey into the UK and make it harder for UK beekeepers to sell their honey?
The work of BfD will not lead to the outcome which is suggested for the following reasons;
- 1. Most of the beekeepers we work with are too small-scale to have any chance of accessing global markets. Infrastructure, contacts, capacity to negotiate and do business with rich countries, knowledge of marketing etc. are all lacking. In the vast majority of cases we help people sell into local markets which are much easier to deal with for those with small volumes - in many developing countries markets for honey are growing, and local demand exceeds supply - especially true in Africa, for example.
- 2. In some few cases we would try to help poor people export honey (although this is very difficult to achieve) and we would like to see some disadvantaged communities have the opportunity to generate more income and "trade their way out of poverty". However, even where they are successful we are talking about a few hundred tonnes of honey. Small scale producers (e.g. 50kilos per beekeeper per year) will never achieve the economy of scale and efficiencies of the organised bee farms of China and Argentina - and so they can only really break into the UK market by selling organic and fair-trade honey. Comparing organic African forest honey, bland mixed-origin honey and a known provenance local UK honey is like comparing three different products - they occupy very different places in the market. We would suggest that small volumes of rather unique and special honey are unlikely to present a threat to UK honey sales - indeed special-origin, organic and fair-trade honey is not cheap and those who choose it, do so deliberately because they want something different.
- 3. Finally UK does not produce enough honey to meet the total demand for honey therefore imports are a fact. If we must buy imported honey, better we buy honey which alleviates extreme poverty and creates an incentive for nature conservation in developing countries! Wouldn't that be great!
The philosophy of Bees for Development is to help some of the poorest people build sustainable livelihoods based on the wise use of their natural resources - beekeeping provides a means to earn an income and help raise the standard of living for poor and remote families - they can use the natural local resources around them to make a living. Earning money from beekeeping also helps people recognise the importance of conserving forests and the natural environment. The vast majority of beekeepers in developing countries use honey at home, to boost the nutrition of their families (especially children) and to sell to neighbours and in local markets. We believe selling honey and bee products can help people achieve sustainable livelihoods and earn their way out of poverty. This is the focus of our work.