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18/09/2018

Spain, Europe's beekeeping leader

Ricardo Migueláñez. @rmiguelanez

You could say that Spain is a beekeeping leader in Europe, accounting for almost 16% of total production and with 2.86 million facilities, ahead of France (10.4% and 1.64 million), Greece (19.1% and 1.58 million) and Italy (8.4% and almost 1.32 million). Moreover, 80% and almost 1.97 million beehives are owned by professionals, the highest amount in the EU and almost double the regional average, which is 40.5%.

This data is reflected in an interesting report entitled "Economic Indicators in the Beekeeping Industry in 2017," released by the Ministry of Agriculture, which indicates that the number of beehives has stabilized in recent years, although they have increased by 20% in the last decade.

In contrast, if we look at the number of beekeepers, Spain has a moderate amount, 23,816, i.e. 3.93% of the 606,082 in the EU, much fewer than the 116,000 (19.14%) in Germany; 62,575 (10.32%) in Poland; 50,000 (8.25%) in Italy; 49,486 (8.16%) in the Czech Republic; 41,560 (6.86%) in France and 37,888 (6.25%) in the UK.

Around 22.5% of Spanish beekeepers are professionals, i.e. 5,361, much higher than the EU average, which only accounts for 5.20% of the total, trailing just Greece (39.53% and 9,716) but ahead of Italy (5,357 and 10.71%) and other EU countries.

According to the latest data from the Register of Livestock Holdings (REGA), as of 1 January 2018, Spain had 31,527 bee farms, of which 18.2% and 5,537 are professional facilities; another 23,952 farms are not professional, and 2,038 had an unknown production capacity.

Most of the bee farms are in Andalusia (1,658, 30% of the total), Extremadura (930, 16.8% of the total); Castile-Leon (617, 11.5%), Castile-La Mancha (406, 7.3%), and Murcia (200, 3.6%).

Most professional and non-professional bee farms are in Castile-León, with 5,458 (17.3%), followed by Andalusia, with 5,008 (15.88%); Galicia, with 4,213 (13.4%); Valencia region, with 2,329 (7.4%); and Castile-La Mancha, with 2,197 (7%), etc. Between 2008 and 2018, the number of bee farms increased by more than 30%, from 23,961 to 31,527, although professional farms expanded by just 9%, from 5,066 in 2008 to 5,537 at the beginning of 2018, and the number of non-professional bee farms rose by 50%, from 16,119 to 23,952.

In terms of productive systems, 60% of farms are sedentary (18,080) and the remaining 40% are transhumant (12,640). Castile-León (4,623), Galicia (4,171), Asturias (1,640), Catalonia (1,503) and Castile-La Mancha (1,116) are home to the bulk of Spain's sedentary bee farms. Andalusia (3,732), Valencia (2,203), Extremadura (1,422), Aragón (1,305) and Castile-La Mancha (1,071) are home to the most transhumant farms.

From a zootechnical standpoint, 75% of the farms (19,812) produce beekeeping products (honey, wax, pollen, etc.); 8,582 are mixed; another 2,495 are unclassified; 375 are involved only in pollination; and 58 select and raise bees.

Of the almost 2.87 million beehives, 22% (622,894) are in Extremadura; 20% (562,680) are in Andalusia; 16% (448,233) are in Castile-León; 12.55% (360,245) are in Valencia; 6.6% (190,989) are in Castile-La Mancha; and 5.71% (163,832) are in Galicia, etc.

Around 80% of the almost 2.87 million beehives are transhumant, i.e. 2,328,320 move around to where there are flowers and plants for pollination, while 508,056 are sedentary and 33,068 are unclassified.

Honey and wax production

According to the latest info from 2016, honey production amounted to 31,018 tons, and wax production to 1,667 tons. Following the recovery in honey production, after the sharp decline in 2012 due to adverse weather conditions, there was another slide, of 7.2% in 2016, in year-on-year terms.

According to sector sources, the results in 2017 fell short of expectations due to the major drought, which led to low yields and, therefore, a slide in production, a long ways away from the 35,279 tons in 2003 and the 34,624 tons in 2001. Wax production, in contrast, has remained stable.

Foreign trade

In 2017, Spain imported 33,619 tons of honey (+15.9% and 4,609 tons more than in 2016), more than was produced in Spain in 2016. Of that amount, 17,511 tons (+9.2%) came from non-EU countries while 16,108 tons (+24.2%) came from the EU. That's the highest volume since at least 2005.

Around 57.9% of Spanish honey imports come from China, with 10,130 tons; another 12.3% (2,151 tons) come from Argentina; 11.9% (2,082 tons) are from Ukraine; 9.7% (1,697 tons) from Uruguay; 2.5% (439 tons) from Cuba and 2.4% (414 tons) from Mexico. The greatest volume imported from China was in 2015 (17,847 tons), almost 80% of the total imported from non-EU countries that year. Imports from Argentina peaked in 2016, at 3,410 tons (21.3%).

In contrast, honey exports amounted to 24,831 tons (-7.2% and 2,082 tons less), around 19,481 tons (-6.5%) going to other EU countries and 5,349 tons (-12%) to non-EU destinations. Exports peaked in 2015, at 30,208 tons. In total, 35.1% (6,835 tons) of Spanish honey exports to the EU went to France; another 20.4% (3,973 tons) went to Germany; 9.4% (1,827 tons) went to Italy; and 9% headed to Portugal.

Since 2008, the year that imports were the highest was 2017 (33,619 tons), with the most honey imported from EU countries than ever before (16,108 tons) though not from non-EU countries since, in 2015 a total of 22,356 tons of non-EU honey was imported, and 17,591 tons were imported the year before.

In terms of exports, 2015 was the best year, with 30,103 tons. Honey sales to other EU countries performed best in 2015 (25,993 tons exported), while exports to non-EU countries peaked in 2016 (6,081 tons). In 2017, while sales from honey imports totaled 75.63 billion euros, the highest since 2008, the value of exports reached a new record of 98.4 million, despite lower honey sales.

The EU has a largely negative trade balance in honey. Honey imports in 2017 totaled 208,360 tons, i.e. 7.2% and almost 14,000 tons more than one year earlier, setting a new record. In contrast, exports remained stable at 21,522 tons. In other words, the EU imports were close to 10-times more than its exports.

The main countries that sold honey to the EU in 2017 were China, with almost 38% of the total (78,492 tons), followed by Ukraine, with 22.7% of the total (46,941 tons); Argentina, with 12% (24,826 tons); and Mexico, with 10.1% (20,857 tons).

As for exports, the main destinations for EU honeys were Switzerland, with 3,154 tons (14.6%); followed by Japan, with 2,905 tons (13.5%); the US, with 2,568 tons (11.9%) and Saudi Arabia and Israel, each with 888 tons (4.1%), etc.

Honey supply

Honey supply in Spain is based on a utilizable production of 32,211 tons, which is not the same as real production, which is estimated to be even lower than the 2016 figure. In addition to that there's another 33,619 tons of total imports, less 24,831 tons that would have been exported, yielding around 41,000 tons of utilizable production.

Apparent human consumption (kg/person) is estimated to be 0.9 kg/per capita, around 0.2 percentage points more than the previous year, with the result that self supply is largely negative, i.e. 78.6% out of 100. At any rate, the EU average is even lower: 65%.

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