Honey exports plummet: EL Salvador

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By LatAm Reports Staff Writers

Germany, one of the main export destinations, drastically reduced purchases of Salvadoran honey to buy from Ukraine.

In 2023, producers exported only honey to four destinations, mainly to Central America.

Beekeepers had to store honey obtained in 2023 due to the collapse in demand from Germany, one of the main export destinations, confirmed the National Apiculture Commission of El Salvador (Conapis).

In addition to the effects of climate change, beekeepers have faced a reduction in demand from Germany since the European country prioritises purchases from Ukraine, one of the world’s leading producers, in solidarity with the Russian invasion.

Last year, little honey was exported. It was exported almost in the end and exported to Central America, but it has cost and exported at very low prices, said Jorge Herrera, manager of Conapis.

Statistics from the Central Reserve Bank (BCR) confirm that 2023 honey exports were the lowest since 1994, after adding $1.09 million. Compared to $3.1 million in 2022, 65.1 percent plummeted.

Of the 2023 total, just $28,560 is for shipments to Germany, equivalent to a collapse of 96.7 per cent compared to the $897,055 reported in 2022. Herrera said that figure represents the shipment of a container that had probably been agreed earlier.

Until 2018, Germany was the biggest buyer with more than $1.92 million, but from 2019 it began to lower its orders.

Overall, exports have fallen since their peak reported in 2015, when they exceeded $9.03 million. Last year, the main destination was Costa Rica and in at least the first four months of 2024 containers valued at $439,074, according to the BCR, have been sent to the United States, Honduras, Costa Rica and Portugal.

In recent years, in 2021, half of production went to Europe, especially Germany, and the other half was for the countries of Central America. Last year there was a problem that there was not much interest in honey and already almost at the end of the year some exports began to be exported for Central America, said the spokesman for Conapis.

The collapse in export also responds to an increase in the supply of honey worldwide due to the income of more production. As a result, Herrera said, there are beekeepers who are leaving the sector.

Although honey is not spoiled when stored for up to four years, Herrera explained that it is difficult to export it because buyers usually demand a fresher product.

Fall in production

The largest honey harvest occurs in November, although in the warm areas it takes place until December. In regions with cooler climates, hives continue to occur between April and May.

However, due to the high temperatures reported in 2023, there were microclimates where the plants flourished, but did not generate nectar, which influenced lower production at the national level that, Conapis said, is not officially quantified.

The beekeeper sector has been reduced in the last decade, with Conapis estimating that in 2015 there were more than 120,000 hives, while currently it ranges from 65,000.

Herrera said that 25 years ago the most significant honey production was reported, in up to 3,500 metric tons. Currently, the organization estimates that not more than 2,000 tonnes, equivalent to two million bottles, are not exceeded.

“Production has decreased due to a number of problems that have been and the climate problem, that has marked us quite a bit in the production part. To such an extent that, before, we calculated that the average yield of hive yield, 20 years ago, was 35 kilograms, but in recent years it is for 35 pounds (15 kg),” he said.

Although domestic honey consumption has increased, it is not enough to absorb domestic production.

Herrera stressed that it is also not considered a basic product in the basic basket and, therefore, it is not priority at the time of shopping, despite its health benefits and as medicine.