Sitting in a coffee shop in Pretoria on May 20, I came across a honey product (see below). Sweet as she was, she was totally unsure from where she came.
Which bee produced you, honey? To which she replied: “Bees have dual citizenship these days, so I usually just wing it on my label.”
The ‘mixed labelling’ issue on honey products should not be taken lightly, especially given the recent upsurge of ‘natural honey’ imports into South Africa. South Africa’s honey imports increased from 476 tonnes in 2001 to 4 206 tonnes in 2017 (chart below).
This is mainly due to steady domestic demand, coupled with a decline in domestic honey production. But, worth highlighting is that on average, 76% of South Africa’s ‘natural honey’ imports came from China in the last 17 years.
I mention this because Chinese honey has in the past dominated the headlines, but not in a good way. In 2014, food24.com ran an article which highlighted that Chinese farmers were caught producing counterfeit honey.
Europe had similar experiences with imported honey to such as extent that the in 2014, the European lawmakers ranked honey on the 6th spot on the list of 10 top products that are most at risk of food fraud.
Again, which bee produced you, honey?
Wandile Sihlobo is an agricultural economist and head of agribusiness research at the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz) in South Africa.
This article originally featured on Agricultural Economics Today.