Georgia has launched a beekeeping agricultural co-operative programme to support the country’s honey producers. According to the minister of agriculture, Otar Danelia, Georgian honey will also be exported to European countries from February 2016. The products will have an internationally recognised certificate.
This means that honey could become one of the state’s leading exported products. In April, EU representatives inspected the production of honey in Georgia, and concluded that honey was one of the best-placed products for entering EU markets, along with hazelnuts and wine. In the past few years Georgia has been mainly exporting products to Libya, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Lebanon, with China and the Republic of Korea joining recently.
“Georgia is currently enjoying a revival in beekeeping,” said Mr Danelia. “Under the support programme for beekeeping agricultural co-operatives initiated by the government, the main focus will be on establishing, as well as developing beekeepers’ co-operatives as well as their further engagement in the manufacturing process.”
He also confirmed that the Agricultural Co-operative Development Agency would procure and allocate the beehives to interested co-operatives that meet the criteria, and would provide technical assistance. The government intends to work with 164 co-operatives, 80 of which are in rural areas, in order to bring beekeeping back to life.
As part of the programme, each participant will have to pay 30% of the value of the beehives supplied by the government. They will receive the same amount of beehives that figure on their balance sheet – no more than 100 units. These will be registered through the agency, which will also provide accounting services and deliver the beehives to individual co-ops. The honey produced will be in line with the government’s technical regulations for honey. To ensure the standards are met, the minister will provide honey inspection services for free until 31 December 2015, which will provide recommendations to beekeepers. The government is also currently investing in a bee-breeding farm in the village of Mukhuri in the Chkhorotsqu municipality, which is seen as an important step in preserving the Georgian bee gene pool. The farm would also act as a research centre in the beekeeping industry.
The beekeeping agricultural co-operative support programme is worth 700 000 GEL (£187,226). Georgia is currently exporting 150,000 tons of honey to Europe, under a Comprehensive Free Trade Area agreement with the European Union. Within the EU, the demand for honey is increasing 6% each year, with 55% of the honey consumed being imported from other countries.