Georgian Honey to Fully Satisfy Quality Standards Soon
Georgia’s honey exports have declined, year on year. As reported by Geostat, the national statistics service of Georgia, in 2019, the country exported 6.5 tons of honey worth 56,300 USD, while the 2018 exports made up 21 tons worth 69,500 USD. 2017 exports totaled 2.2 tons worth 15,800 USD, 2016 – 3.8 tons (21,200 USD), 2015 – 8.3 tons (73,100 tons).
In order to popularize Georgian honey on international markets, the Georgian Beekeepers Association has developed two important platforms: www.honeyofgeorgia.com and www.jarahoney.com. The websites update those interested on the diversity of Georgian honey, geographical biodiversity of Georgia, and its natural wealth. The website’s users are also able to receive detailed information on the region’s nectariferous plants and the Georgian bee.
Nevertheless, two websites and several video clips turned out to be insufficient to change the reality reflected in the Geostat report. Beekeeper Irina Lortkipanidze talks about the government’s role, and asks it to assist in making Georgian honey more visible on international markets.
“The Georgian Beekeepers Association has created two websites. Earlier, we did not have a website on Georgian bees. The Agriculture Ministry is holding various meetings to assist us in popularizing Georgian honey. Without this official support, our efforts will be useless. To grow our visibility, we need video commercials, active AD campaigns. The consumers should be persuaded that Georgian honey is the best in the world. All beekeepers should aspire to produce the best honey, place the product into good vessels, all standards must be protected, and only after that will we achieve the desired results”, Irina Lortkipanidze said.
As noted by Aleko Papava, the Georgian Beekeepers’ Association Director, the popularization of Georgian honey on the international market is of crucial importance for the honey business’ development. The interest in Georgian honey has grown, irreversibly, he added.
“ www.honeyofgeorgia.com is dedicated to Georgian honey today, while www.jarahoney.com describes Jara Honey, that is, the traditional Georgia beehive used from ancient times for breeding bees. Jara Honey is a very rare and high-quality organic, wild product. It is an absolutely clean and wild honey. This is our tradition of beekeeping, and many people should learn about this worldwide, about our history. We have also prepared promotional video materials. All these efforts have raised a lot of interest. We receive letters from Britain, Asian countries. They demand that we introduce our products to them, and naturally, we should intensify our efforts in this regard”, Aleko Papava noted.
Furthermore, the authorities should subsidize honey analysis tests to rescue the field, he added.
As explained by Aleko Papava, accredited laboratories issue to let Georgian honey enter export markets. Laboratories request high fees for these tests, and beekeepers cannot take on these costs. The official subsidies allocated to the beekeeping sector is 150,000 GEL. The Beekeepers Association offers a special scheme to the Georgian authorities to tackle the problem, Papava pointed out.
“The key problem is that there are only 2 or 3 enterprises to cooperate with, and this does not suffice. We need more enterprises, and we should provide a lot of jobs in this field. Another problem is related to subsidization of laboratory tests. One test costs about 3,000 GEL, and this is a serious burden on beekeepers. We want the Agriculture Ministry to subsidize this direction. The initial cost for identifying the honey naturality is about 150 GEL, and beekeepers are able to cover this sum themselves. They also need screening tests that cost about 700 GEL. We can negotiate the issue with the Government to split this sum, because 700 GEL is not a small amount for beekeepers. The most important thing is that not all beekeepers are able to export their products, while exports are carried out by an enterprise that provides honey coupage. Can you imagine how many samples one enterprise can receive? To reduce risks and gain the interest of potential investors, we need subsidization. As a result, 50% of the total costs will be covered by the government, and another 50% will be covered by a mediator company. We are waiting for the response from the Agriculture Ministry to discuss our problems, the field’s trends, and how to overcome obstacles together. We have definitely improved all indicators. Imperfections in Georgian honey have been minimized, and in 2021 we will attain better results”, Aleko Papava noted.
In 2019, the National Food Agency collected about 100 honey samples, and sent them to the Institute of Food Safety, Animal Health and Environment Protection. The test in 2020 showed better results. Only 8% of 100 samples were found with waste or forbidden antibiotics, while the figure was 54% in 2019.
Imereti, Shida Kartli, Samtskhe-Javakheti, Mtskheta-Mtianeti and Guria – this is a list of regions free of waste or antibiotics. As noted by Gia Mikadze, the head of the National Food Agency’s Department for Food Safety, positive developments come from permanent communication with beekeepers. Several training sessions were held on how to prepare. As noted by Mikadze, beekeepers were able to receive information on forbidden substances that are strictly regulated by EU standards.
‘We started monitoring our honey tests in 2013. For many years, about 34% of 99 samples were found with defects, while the figure has decreased to 9% now. The results will boost honey exports to the EU market. We must update the European Commission on the results. As a result, confidence in our monitoring system, monitoring bodies and businesses have grown, because they received the desired result after many years of effort.
I would also like to note that not only the official structures, but also nongovernmental organizations and consulting companies, have made a huge contribution to the field’s development, as they consult business operators about how to better fulfill their obligations”, Gia Mikadze.
Aleko Papava, President of the Georgian Beekeepers Association is content with the analysis’ results. The gains will assist Georgia in finding a valuable niche on the EU market, he said, and added that Georgian honey will overcome all quality problems, and honey production will rise to 20,000 tons from 2,000 tons.