What Bee Produced You Honey?

On 20 May 2018, sitting in a coffee shop in Pretoria, I came across this honey (picture below). Sweet as she was she was totally unsure from where she came.

What bee produced you, honey? She replied “Bees have dual citizenship these days, so I usually just wing it on my label

Honey bottle


The ‘mixed labelling’ issue on honey products should not be taken lightly, especially given the recent upsurge of ‘natural honey’ imports into South Africa. South Africa’s honey imports increased from 476 tonnes in 2001 to 4 206 tonnes in 2017 (chart below). honey chart

This is mainly due to steady domestic demand, coupled with a decline in domestic honey production. But, worth highlighting is that on average, 76% of South Africa’s ‘natural honey’ imports came from China in the past 17 years.

I mention this because the Chinese honey has in the past dominated the headlines, but not in a good way. In 2014, food24.com ran an article which highlighted that Chinese farmers were caught producing counterfeit honey.

Europe had similar experiences with imported honey to such as extent that the in 2014, the European lawmakers ranked honey on the 6th spot on the list of 10 top products that are most at risk of food fraud.

This has been a big scandal, and even Netflix, went as far as shooting a documentary about it entitled “Rotten — Lawyers, Guns & Honey.”

Again, what bee produced you, honey?…..

Follow me on Twitter (@WandileSihlobo). E-mail: wandile@agbiz.co.za

Author: Wandile Sihlobo

Wandile Sihlobo is an agricultural economist and head of agribusiness research at the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz) in South Africa. He is a columnist for Business Day and Farmers Weekly magazine. Sihlobo is a member of the South African Agricultural Economics Association. He has previously served as an economist at Grain South Africa. He holds a Master of Science degree in Agricultural Economics from Stellenbosch University.

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