Beekeepers strive to save sector; say they are being ignored

Fall in Alentejan honey production could reach 90% this year

Six beekeepers’ associations have banded together in a desperate bid for survival: their sector has been decimated by drought. This year particularly will see production, in some cases, falling by as much as 90%. But all calls for support have fallen on deaf ears.

This is not the first time a sector has lamented the lack of support from the Ministry of Agriculture. But in beekeepers’ case, the failings are somehow worse than in others, in as much as the ministry doesn’t even include beekeeping in its agri-environmental perspective.

“It is completely incomprehensible that Portugal is the only country in the European Union that does not include beekeeping in agri-environmental measures, nor has any kind of direct support for beekeepers,” say the associations.

João Neto of the Apilegre association stressed that “politicians like to talk a lot about protecting biodiversity and green agriculture, but they have no notion, do not want to have the notion or do not know” the importance of the beekeeping sector.

Bees are at the base of ecosystems because of pollination”. If there is no support for the sector that to a large extent protects bees (“treats them against diseases, feeds them when they have no food and gives them good conditions”) it won’t simply be a case of a sector collapsing; it could spell “a very serious problem for human and animal food in future”.

The six associations, Apilegre (northwest Alentejo), Apiguadiana (Guadiana valley national park), Apivale (Guadiana Valley), Montemormel (municipality of Montemor-o-Novo), Aderavis (Association for Rural Development and Traditional Productions Concelho Avis) and AASAVicentina (Association of Beekeepers of Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast) represent around 1,500 beekeepers who have put their points to the regional director of Agriculture, in Évora – and now wait to see what comes back.

Last year for beekeepers was not a good year; this year has been even worse. No one can tell what the weather holds in store for 2024. Says João Neto:  “There is no kind of security in this activity (…) It is completely inadmissible and a discrimination that we cannot understand”.

Bottom line: if things continue as they have been “it will be the end of beekeeping… and with it an already useless acknowledgement of the importance of this millennial activity which, much more than producing honey, represents the greatest pollination force controlled by Man. 

Without pollination there is no fruit production, without fruit there are no seeds, without seeds there are no plants that produce food. In short, without food… there will certainly be no Ministries, either of Agriculture or anything else.”

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