Special Report: Brazil makes the world dribble for its high-quality honey
In 2014, Brazil exported 25,000 tons of honey worth 98.5 million U.S. dollars. That was 82% more than in 2013. The significant increase was due in part to a higher average export price, which rose from 3.34 dollars a kilo in 2013 to 3.89 dollars a kilo in 2014.
This year, the country hopes to see a small increase in these figures, despite a sluggish economy. Brazil exports most of its honey to the United States, which accounts for 75% of its entire export. Next are Germany, accounting for 7%, Canada for 5% and the United Kingdom for 5%. Still, Brazil is only the world’s seventh-largest honey exporter, so there’s great potential for growth.
SOUNDBITE: Nezio Medeiros, President of the Santa Catarina Federation of Honey Producers
“Our bee production went through a long lull. We have to strive to go from 16.18 kilos of honey per beehive to 35.40 kilos. Our state already has more than 100 honey farmers that are producing an average of 40 kilos per beehive.”
The Federation of Santa Catarina has more than a thousand registered beekeepers. The potential for increased production is enormous. But quantity doesn’t always mean quality. The European and U.S. markets only buy organic honey from Brazil, turning the South American country stand into a prime global exporter of the organic product . Organic honey gives Brazil a competitive advantage, since demand for organic and natural products is growing internationally. And organic honey can fetch 30% more per kilo. However, there are strict regulations regulating organic products.
SOUNDBITE: Angenor Sartori, Miramel Director
“It can’t be near GM (genetically modified) crops, industrial activity or orchards sprayed with pesticides. The machinery and extraction process for honey are also regulated. From the beekeeper to the honey consumer, there is a regulatory process to guarantee that it is truly organic.”
Brazilian honey has won the title of world’s best honey on four occasions, thanks to the industry’s attention to quality, packaging and increasingly sophisticated products. But Celio Marcos, one of the award winners, says it’s not just the honey that is reviving the industry.
SOUNDBITE : Celio Marcos, Prodapys Director
“We always use all the raw materials of the beehive. Honey, beeswax, propolis, bee venom and pollen. And we are beginning to make products with these raw materials.”
Celio’s company makes the Brazilian honey that was most exported in 2014, shipping nearly six thousand tons. The company also has a line of beauty products and medicinal products in sophisticated packaging.
The international market is also very interested in Brazilian propolis. Thanks to the abundance of wild plants, it is of excellent quality and has many medicinal properties. Beekeepers are always looking for new technologies that will let them extract a more high-quality product. Bees use propolis as a kind of sealant to insulate hives and keep out natural enemies such as ants. So beekeepers developed a removable propolis screen where bees can deposit this bee resin or glue. The screens, or grids, make it easier to harvest the propolis without having to scrape the hives and contaminate the product with wood shavings.
SOUNDBITE : Jovetis da Silva, Beekeeper
“It’s the most perfect, most hygienic and cleanest method. Pure propolis.”
The country has about 350,000 beekeepers. Production takes place throughout the year with different colors of propolis and honey with different flavors, due to the variety of flowers and climates that allow intense migratory beekeeping. With a little more than technology and government support, which may soon become a leader in the global production of honey and bee products.