2022’s climate has seen many extreme events – from drought to storms – which have impacted the Italian honey harvest. Halved from the calculated production potential, the bees are struggling.
The crazy climate of 2022 that multiplied extreme events, including drought and storms, saw the Italian harvest honey halved. Summer blooms burned by the heat or destroyed by hail forced exhausted bees to extend flights to find some nourishment.
This data comes from Coldiretti’s first report on Made in Italy honey in 2022. The harvest was practically halved (-40%) compared to the production potential. The result is a Made in Italy production of around 13 million kilos, among the lowest of the decade.
Honey Map of Italy
Coldiretti has drawn up a honey map of Italy, which shows drops in honey production ranging from -15% in Calabria to -80% in Basilicata.
THE 2022 HARVEST OF HONEY IN ITALY
Friuli Venezia Giulia -25%
Emilia Romagna -35%
Trentino Alto Adige -20%
Valle d’Aosta -50%
Source: Coldiretti estimates
Reasons honey harvest halved
The high temperatures and lack of water combined with early blooms forced the beekeepers to leave earlier for the mountain areas and to bring rescue rations to the hives already in the first days of August.
In Puglia, Coldiretti’s report states, bees were artificially watered to keep them from dying. Buckets of water had cork and polystyrene floats so they could quench their thirst without drowning.
But in addition to the climate effect, the “bee shepherds” also face the explosion of costs due to the international tensions generated by the war in Ukraine: from glass jars to labels, from cartons to diesel.
Italian honey heritage endangered
In Italy, people consume about half a kilo of honey per head per year, below the European average of 600 grams, and one third compared to Germany. The Belpaese, however, wins in biodiversity with more than 60 varieties from PDO varieties such as Honey from Lunigiana, and Honey from the Belluno Dolomites and Varesino honey, up to special ones in barrique or flavoured, from lime to citrus, from eucalyptus to acacia.
Imports from abroad, which grew by almost 18% in the first five months of 2022 and last year, are endangering Italy’s honey heritage. In total, Coldiretti reports on Istat data, 24 million kilos came in from abroad. Of those, more than half (14 million kilos) came from Hungary, Romania and Ukraine with almost 2 out of 3 jars practically full of foreign product.
To avoid bringing to the table products from abroad, often of low quality, it is necessary – advises Coldiretti – to carefully check the origin on the label. Alternatively, contact the producers directly on farms, in farmhouses or in the Campagna Amica markets.
According to Coldiretti, based on the data of the report of the National Honey Observatory in Italy, there are 1.5 million hives treated by about 73,000 beekeepers. Of those, 2 out of 3 are hobbyists who produce for self-consumption.
The presence of young people is growing with beekeeping companies run by under 35s which have increased by 17% in the last five years according to a Coldiretti analysis of Unioncamere data.
Check the labels
Honey produced on the national territory, where GM crops are not allowed, is recognisable through the mandatory origin labelling.
The word Italy must be present by law on the packages of honey collected entirely on the national territory (eg Italian honey). If honey comes from several countries of the European Union, the label must bear the ‘indication “mixture of honeys originating in the EU” indicating the name of the countries (for example, if it comes from Italy and Hungary, the jar must say Italy, Hungary). For honey from non-EU countries there must be the wording “mixture of non-EU honeys” with the name of the countries; a mix has a lable stating “mixture of original and non-EU honeys”, also with the indication of the names of the countries.