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Terminology used in the Honey Trade
Types of honey:
Industrial Honey Low grade or low value honey used for industrial purposes (e.g. ingredient in food processing or in cosmetics production).
Table Honey Sold in jars for direct consumption, e.g. for spreading on bread.
Blended honey Honey from multiple origins. 80% of honey imported into the U.K. is used for producing blended honey. The main objective is profitability so whichever honeys are cheapest on the world market at the time are used. In the U.K. blended honey may be amongst the cheapest of the table honeys sold in the supermarkets, but in Cameroon, the blended imported honeys sold in the supermarkets are among the most expensive honeys sold in the country.
Set honey Honey that has crystallised. In Europe, many people are more accustomed to set honey and prefer it to liquid (clear) honey for spreading on bread. Most clear honeys can be processed to set by mixing the batch with 10% seed of a finely crystallised honey at a temperature of 20 -30C. If this honey is cooled to about 20C and stirred for several days the original crystal seeds will grow and multiply until the honey becomes thick and smoothly textured.
Granulated honey Another name for honey where sugar crystals have formed. Some honeys are granulated at the outset, such as Oku honey, while other honeys granulate over time.
Clear honey Liquid (runny) honey. Honey that has crystallised can be turned back into clear honey by melting it. Processors should avoid over-melting the honey (i.e. heating it too much for long periods). A good way of melting a pre-packed honey is to leave it to stand in warm water for a short time.
Cut comb honey Pieces of comb containing honey and presented for sale in this way, i.e. honey which has not been extracted.
Stingless bee honey Produced by bees belonging to a different family from honey bees. Their hives are usually wild so supply is more on an ad hoc basis. There is currently no legislation which would allow this type of honey to be exported into the European Union. Since it often fetches a high price locally and is rare; it is more important to focus on the local market.
Organic certified honey Organic honey is guaranteed to be free from any additive or residues of pesticides, fertilizers or drug treatment. If a honey is to be sold on the European market as Organic, it must fulfil European Union criteria for organic as well as being certified by a national authority in the receiving country (e.g. Soil Association in the U.K.)
Fair trade certified honey Fair Trade honey guarantees certain conditions for the producers. Certification is currently controlled by the Fair Trade Labelling Organisation based in Germany, who set the standards and usually send the inspectors.
Obtaining and maintaining either of these accreditations requires an investment as well as ongoing costs and responsibilities, but they can add 20-50% onto the value of the honey.
Niche A small section of the market occupied by products of a special value, for example 'organic' or 'fair trade'.
Value-added Giving your product a higher value either through transforming it from raw to processed; obtaining certification; or by using marketing to communicate its worth.
Marketing strategy/ plan The route map you have for your business, which takes into account where you are, where you are going, and how you are going to get there. Without a plan, everything is done on an ad-hoc basis whereas planning can anticipate and allow for certain outcomes. There will always be unknown factors and uncertainties, but a plan taken as an ongoing process should allow for updating, revising and accommodating change in a dynamic market environment, so that progress continues smoothly.
Sales forecast What you are expecting your sales to be, not what you would like them to be. This should take into account an assessment of the market itself, your competitors, your customers, your product range, seasonal changes, and investment you are planning to put into sales promotion.
Water content Must be below 19% or honey will ferment. Usually measured with a refractometer but on the village level, simple tests can be used such as a) putting the honey on a non-safety match- the match should burn if water content is below 19%; or b) Dripping honey into a glass of clean water- honey should flow to the bottom of the glass without dissolving.
HMF Hydroxy-methyl furfuraldehyde level indicates the breakdown of sugars and is the principal measurement of honey which has been overheated or stored for long periods (tested in a laboratory).
Colour Standard colour grades have been developed to describe honey colour, since simply saying 'light, dark, golden' etc allows wide interpretation. Internationally, colour is measured with a Lovibond Comparimeter, an instrument costing about 75,000FCFA.
Equipment used in testing honey:
Refractometer An instrument which can be used to measure the refractive index of honey, (amount of refraction of light passing through the sample). From this the water-sugar ratio can be calculated, for example a reading of 18% water means that the sugar concentration is 92%. Refractometers are usually calibrated in % water but sometimes % sugar. The refractometer does not distinguish between the different types of sugar in the sample. Costs about 80,000FCFA.
Hydrometer An alternative device for measuring water content, indicating liquid density. Costs about 40,000FCFA from France.
Residue Monitoring Scheme E.U. legislation introduced in 2001 requires all countries wishing to import honey into the E.U. to produce a RMS. The legislation was designed to monitor and control levels of antibiotic residues in honeys entering the E.U in order to avoid contamination.