Honey exporters eye EU market

November 02, 2017 - 09:00

The European market has high demand for honey, offering great opportunities for Vietnamese honey producers to boost exports.

People taking bees out of canvas to harvest the honey. — VNA/VNS Photo Phạm Kiên
Viet Nam News

HCM CITY — The European market has high demand for honey, offering great opportunities for Vietnamese honey producers to boost exports.

But honey quality needs to improve if beekeepers who make honey want to expand markets, speakers at a seminar said on Wednesday in HCM City.

Most of the Vietnamese honey output is exported and meets the EU’s technical requirements on chemical residue in honey products, according to Lê Thanh Hòa, deputy director of the Việt Nam Sanitary and Phytosanitary Notification Authority and Enquiry Point (SPS Việt Nam).

In 2013, Việt Nam was allowed to export honey to the EU market, but Việt Nam’s honey exports to the market accounted for a modest ratio compared to the country’s total honey exports.

Hòa said the seminar aimed to help local businesses understand more about EU market demand as well as quality and technical requirements.

Đinh Quyết Tâm, deputy chairman of the Việt Nam Beekeepers Association, said Việt Nam produced 49,560 metric tonnes of honey last year. Of that amount, 40,174 metric tonnes were exported, with exports to the US accounting for more than 38,500 metric tonnes and the EU at only 1,330 metric tonnes.

EU demand for honey is as high as that of the US, he said, adding that honey consumption is expected to remain high.

“Europe honey production is not self-sufficient and is dependent on honey imports from other countries because the European beekeeping sector has shrunk in size.”

This trend is expected to remain in the coming years, offering opportunities for Vietnamese honey exporters, Tâm said.

In addition, when the EU-Việt Nam Free Trade Agreement comes into effect, it will offer more favourable conditions for Vietnamese firms to export honey to the EU market.

Compliance issues

Speaking at the seminar, Nikolaus Bieger, an international expert with the EU-Mutrap project, said: “European importers are keen to buy honey from Việt Nam, so this is good news for local exporters.”

Vietnamese honey exporters to the EU must comply with legally binding requirements, including those on food safety and traceability, hygiene and control, pesticide residue and genetically modified organisms, among others.

The Vietnamese Government has established a legal basis to export Vietnamese honey into the EU, but Vietnamese honey faces enormous problems to be accepted in the EU market, according to Bieger.

The problems include high glycerine and yeast content and acidity levels. All these parameters indicate ‘unripe’ harvested honey, and consequently non-desired fermentation or ‘stopped or stuck’ fermentation, he said.

“European consumers don’t want fermented honey because it changes the odour and taste. So if you really want to export or to raise significantly your exports to Europe, you have to change something in production,” he added.

Besides these main issues, there are problems with feed residue found in honey produced by bees raised with soybeans.

“For us honey is a health product, so it should be something pure without contamination or any other changes,” he said. “The solution is to find resources which can provide protein to bees, which is now being replaced with soya. But this is difficult.”

The other solution would be to have more space for bees to have better separation from feed, pollen and honey by adding another section to the bee-breeding box, he said.

Currently, bees are bred in a single box, so when honey is harvested, bee feed can easily mix with honey, he said. This means that producers must improve their methods of operating.

Nguyễn Việt Cường, CEO of Dak Nguyên Hồng Company, one of the largest honey exporters in the country, said besides the US market, Vietnamese honey exporters should promote exports to EU and other markets to diversify their markets and avoid risks.

Local exporters should also focus more on improving product quality and building brands for their products.

The seminar, which discussed expansion of Vietnamese honey exports to the EU market, was organised by SPS Việt Nam with the support of the EU-Mutrap project. — VNS