Honeybee colonies are essential for agriculture and the environment, they ensure plant reproduction by pollination, whilst beekeeping contributes to the development of rural areas.
Beekeeping is practised in all EU countries and is characterised by diverse production conditions, yields and beekeeping practices. The EU is the second most important honey producers after China, however, the EU is also a net importer of honey from third countries. EU countries with the largest honey production (Romania, Spain, Hungary, Germany, Italy, Greece, France and Poland) are located mainly in Southern Europe where climatic conditions are more favourable to beekeeping.
The EU offers a variety of apiculture products rather than just honey, including pollen, propolis, royal jelly and beeswax. All honey marketed in the EU must fulfil the rules on quality and labelling laid down in the "honey directive" 2001/110/EC.
National apiculture programmes
Each EU country may draw up a national apiculture programme, this is then supported by the EU. These programmes cover a three-year period. Apiculture programmes for 2020-22, were approved by EU implementing decision 2019/974 in all EU countries.
Under the programmes 8 specific measures are eligible for funding:
- technical assistance: for example, training for beekeepers and groups of beekeepers on topics such as breeding or disease prevention, extraction, storage, packaging of honey etc;
- combating beehive invaders and diseases, particularly varroasis; varroa is an endemic parasite, which weakens bee immune systems and, when untreated, leads to the loss of bee colonies;
- rationalisation of transhumance which is important for pollination but also for bee nutrition;
- analyses of apiculture products: honey, royal jelly, propolis, pollen and beeswax;
- restocking of hives;
- applied research;
- market monitoring;
- enhancement of product quality with a view to exploiting the potential of apiculture products on the market.
Every third year the European Commission presents a report to the European Parliament and the Council on the implementation of the measures concerning the apiculture sector.
For the apiculture years 2020-22, €240 million will be spent on national apiculture programmes in the EU, an increase of 11% compared to the funding available for 2017-19. Half of this will come from the EU budget and the other half from EU countries, as approved by EU implementing decision 2019/974. Allocation of the EU funding for these programmes is based on the number of beehives in each EU country, notified to the European Commission in accordance with article 3 of EU delegated regulation 2015/1366.
EU implementing regulation 2015/1368 sets out the detailed rules for the application of the national apiculture programmes.
Various committees, composed of government representatives and chaired by a European Commission representative, meet regularly to ensure that the Commission's responsibility for adopting implementing acts is exercised under the control of EU countries.
The committee for common organisation of agricultural markets discuss areas such as the evolution of market prices, production and trade in the EU and non-EU countries.
The civil dialogue group and working group on animal products maintains the role of assisting the European Commission in maintaining a regular dialogue on all matters related to honey.