Beekeepers in Spain who are challenged by heatwave-induced harvest declines and the import of low-cost honey are calling on lawmakers to greenlight anti-parasite substances.
Officials at the federal agricultural organisation COAG (La Coordinadora de Organizaciones de Agricultores y Ganaderos) have appealed to the government to approve recently developed medical agents targeting the Varroa destructor, a feared parasitic mite.
COAG executives said it had to be ensured that apiarists could continue fighting Varroa outbreaks. They warned that the mite was getting increasingly resilient against substances that already exist.
The Varroa destructor is a globally existing parasite which reproduces by attaching to the body of the bee. The pollinator gets weaker as the mite sucks its fat-storage cells. A Varroa infestation can lead to the death of a whole colony.
COAG members have taken to the streets in several cities across Spain to make their concerns heard. They complain about a lack of support from politicians as their costs keep spiralling.
Pedro Loscertales heads the COAG’s apiculture department. He criticised that record amounts of “mediocre” honey had been imported to Spain in 2022.
Pedro claimed: “This kind of competition is causing extreme pressure on the prices Spain’s beekeepers are asking for. All of this happens on the back of a 50 per cent decrease of harvests caused by last summer’s drought.”
In a statement, the COAG urges the federal government to pass a comprehensive set of measures including the subsidisation of beekeepers to compensate them for their rising petrol expenses.
The organisation – which represents more than 150,000 farmers – also underlines the importance of stricter quality checks to ensure that fake honey products from abroad are banned.
The current constellation of high imports, the knock-on effects of the war in Ukraine and extreme weather conditions is “unacceptable” for Spanish beekeepers, the COAG manifesto concludes.
None of the European Union’s 26 other member states is producing more honey than the apiarists of Spain who managed almost three million hives in 2021.