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An outlook on the Romanian beekeeping sector.
Beekeeping, an occupation with a long history in Romania, has developed significantly in the past years. People who go into this business know that there is no need for any substantial investment, and the money can be recovered in approximately two year's time. In the beginning they can only have 5 to 10 families, which requires an investment of no more than 1500 Euro. A bee family can produce 20 to 25 kg of honey. Professional beekeepers can get a profit of 70-80 lei for each bee family. As regards production, Romania ranks fourth in the EU, after Germany, France and Hungary. In terms of number of bee families, Romania ranks 7th in Europe, with over 40,000 beekeepers at national level. However, if we talk about consumption, Romanians rank last in the EU. Romanians eat both locally produced and foreign honey, the latter coming particularly from China and Latin America, which is blended with domestic varieties and sold as being Romanian. Here is Ioan Fetea, the director of the Beekeepers' Association.
"The beekeepers' association, responsible for the development of beekeeping since 1958, when the association was set up, has managed to maintain a good tradition, in the sense that we have managed to gather together over 22,000 beekeepers, who keep a total of 1.5 million bee families. Every year we make sure the legislative framework supports this sector. Also, we are very much interested in promoting it, in the sense of stimulating the increase in honey consumption, because Romania is still lagging behind in this matter. We are at the bottom of the list in Europe, with a consumption less than 500 grams per capita, as compared to countries such as France, Italy or the Nordic countries, where people eat 2 to 3 kg of honey. Consumption has grown significantly in Romania as well, however, in the past 10 years, and we hope it will keep growing, because it is a pity for only half of the production to be consumed, and the rest to be exported. I'm saying this because Romanian honey is exceptionally good, its qualities are well-known abroad, and it wins prizes and awards at each and every fair or exhibition that it participates in. Romania exports honey, but I hope that in the next 15-25 years we will no longer export, but consume it, and even get to import high-quality honey. It's a pity that we export health and bring in all sorts of rubbish."
Romania's climate is excellent for beekeeping, the country being a genuine beekeepers' paradise from March to October, with surfaces covered in linden and acacia trees, various fruit trees, and sunflower. Organic honey made in Romania is also famous all over the world. There are over 100 thousand registered bee families, which account for the 3000-4000 tons of organic honey produced every year. Experts believe that Romania has an even bigger potential for developing this sector, mainly because the honey produced in Romania's hilly and mountainous regions as well as in the Danube Delta, accounting for 25% of the total honey production, is organic, although it hasn't been certified as organic, because no pesticides, fertilizers and antibiotics have been used to treat bee families. This is one of the EU-imposed conditions for honey exporters. Here is Ioan Fetea again.
"Romania exports between 10 and 12 thousand tons to the USA, Japan, Arab countries, and Europe. The biggest importer of Romanian honey is Germany, which processes and mixes it with honey coming from other countries and resells it. Europe, which is a big consumer of honey, has a production of 200 thousand tons, but its consumption is double."
The National Beekeeping Programme has been made available for Romanian beekeepers. In the period between 2014 - 2016, beekeepers got 20 million Euros worth of aid, and the government has recently approved an additional 30.2 million euros in aid.
"Financial support for beekeepers translates into the National Beekeeping Programme, which applies in several directions: treatment for bee families, the purchase of biological material and equipment, and even technical assistance. Beekeepers can have access to roughly 7 million euros through this programme. There are also other European funds, such as the one for the young farmers, but eligibility criteria have become very strict in recent years. That's why we are recommended to find solutions and go into mixed ventures, with fruit-growing or other forms of farming in order to get access to these funds."
Over 2,700 farmers below 40 years of age have gained access to 25,000 Euros in EU funds for setting up new farm ventures. A quarter of them decided to invest in beekeeping. Under the new Rural Development Programme young farmers can access up to 50 thousand euros in non-reimbursable funds to begin a business in agriculture.
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