Update on BfDJ 103 - Fungicide residues bankrupt beekeepers in Vietnam
Beekeepers in the Central Highlands and southwest region of Vietnam have been ‘evacuating’ their bees to northern or western localities to ensure their honey does not contain fungicide residues as reported in BfDJ 103. Export to the USA accounts for up to 85% of the country’s total honey export turnover, and honey must meet US import requirements.
Figures from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Central Highlands Province of Dak Lak show that there are over 200,000 colonies of bees hived in the area, most belonging to the joint-stock company Dak Lak Honeybee. Annual honey production produced from cashew and rubber flowers is 5,000–7,000 tonnes.
“Last year I harvested nearly 20 tonnes of honey worth VND600 million (US$28,800 €23,300)”, said Ta Minh Phung, a beekeeper in Dak Lak. “But this is now held at Dak Lak Honeybee since it has been rejected from being shipped due to its cashew and rubber origins. The company suggested that we brought our bees to the northern provinces to make honey from litchi flowers. I had to borrow VND40 million (US$19,203; €15,540) from the company to cover expenses for the trip, while I still have an unsettled bank loan of VND200 million (US$ 9,600; €7,750),” he said.
Meanwhile Nguyen Chi Toan, who runs a honey farm in Buon Ma Thuot City, said he had transported 300 colonies of bees to the northern Bac Giang and Phu Tho Provinces to make honey from litchi blooms. Toan explained that he used to harvest many tonnes of honey from rubber trees, but this honey is now unmarketable so he had to raise VND100 million (US$ 4,860; €3,875) to transport the bees.
Although beekeepers said the new barrier has hindered their exports, Nguyen Xuan Binh, Director of the Animal Health Centre Region 6, said honey exports to the USA are at a normal level, and not banned as earlier reported. Le Tan Luc, Deputy Director of Dak Lak Honeybee, said that the company normally exports 4,000 tonnes of honey to the USA by May each year, but so far in 2012 the figure is only 1,000 tonnes. While waiting for guidance from authorities, the company has instructed its farmers to bring their bees northwards, and have expanded also into other Asian countries to diversify their export market.
Phan Dinh Trong, Director of Dong Nai Honey, said the company had already exported 1,500 tonnes of honey in the year. He said that it is only beekeepers in the areas where rubber and cashew trees are treated with carbendazim that face difficulties to export, in other localities beekeepers are unaffected by the barrier. Trong added that Vietnam’s beekeeping sector should ensure good hygiene and food safety standards for its products and source other potential markets, rather than focusing solely on the USA.
An EU delegation will visit Vietnam in September 2012 to check procedures for measuring chemical residues in Vietnamese honey. If it passes all the inspections, Vietnamese honey can return to the EU market since being banned in 2007.