The collapse of honey production in Cuba

Cuban Honey, Sweet for Export and Bitter for Nationals

HAVANA, February 23. The “honey of the avant-garde” of Camagüey, as the official press has often defined it, had its worst year in 2023. Producers lost 500 hivesonly in May and June due to the fuel crisis, which caused production to be only 530 tons last year.

It was a “very complex” year, especially for exports, to which 90% of what Camagüey produces is destined, lamented the head of the state beekeepers of the province, Omelio Barba. The amount produced in 2023 is still far from the 913 tons in 2019, its second-best mark after the 1,000 tons manufactured in 1983.

The manager gave the bad news during a recent assessment in the Camagüey section of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment.

Alarmed because Cuba is losing its “tradition” as a beekeeping giant for more than 40 years, Barba explained that the 2023 flowering was also catastrophic, which – together with the fuel shortage – led to the loss of the hives.

This 2024 is also going in the wrong direction. Without gains from last year’s sales, there will be problems getting production back up to speed. “We need it to look for liquidity and a currency market that allows us to develop throughout the country, and that is the mission,” explained the leader.

Beekeepers in the province also make wax, pollen and jelly, Barba said, which they will try to produce this year “despite the difficulties.” The manager has no other plan than to “hope that the weather favors the work of the bees themselves” and awaits “the arrival of fuel”, as fickle as bad weather.

The collapse of honey production, one of the few products that brings substantial profits to the Cuban Government, is a phenomenon that affects the entire country. The figures for Las Tunas in 2023 are more serious than those of Camagüey: they remained at 275.7 tons, less than half of what was in 2020 and only 53% of what was planned.

As in the rest of the country’s provinces, producers must sell their honey to the State Beekeeping Company, which evaluates the product and sets a price, much better paid than other products but not exempt from delays and traps on the part of the State. , whose cut is several times higher than what he says.

For each ton, the authorities pay 600 MLC (freely convertible currency) to the beekeeper, but they sell it on the international market, on average, for more than 4,000 euros – which, depending on the quality, can rise to 20,000.

Even so, the producers suffer the same difficulties as the rest of the farmers, while the managers attribute the failure to natural causes, such as drought, in the case of Las Tunas, or poor flowering, in Camagüey.

Barba, who in 2019 celebrated the success of the sector and predicted that it would be an important gateway for foreign currency to the country, is now preparing for another year that looks mediocre.