Prepared by: Rajaa Mukred
Yemeni honey is one of the most expensive types of honey in the world. It is globally distinguished by its high quality and therapeutic benefits. The price of honey in Yemen is about $75 for 1 kilo.
Outside of Yemen, honey sells for around $500 dollars per kilo,The circumstances of the armed conflict, climatic changes, and weak local purchasing power and export are the factors that contributed to the decline in exporting honey.
The export volume of honey until 2014 was 50 thousand tons annually. This, however, decreased by half with the onset of the conflict, according to the Yemeni Beekeepers Union.
- 100 thousand Yemeni households depend on beekeeping, according to FAO, May 19, 2023.
- According to statistics issued by the Yemeni Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation. The total production of pure bee honey in 2013 reached about 2,614 tons, while the number of beehives in Yemen reached nearly one million and 308 thousand cells during the same year.
- “Yemen is famous for Sidr honey, which is one of the most expensive types of honey in the world”, FAO data, May 19, 2023.
- The number of Yemeni beekeepers reached 81,734 in 2002, according to the "Yemeni Agricultural Statistics Yearbook" and the Yemeni Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation.
Honey production and beekeeping are among the professions thousands of families in Yemen have depended on as a source of income since ancient times.
The United Nations estimates that this profession is dated back to the tenth century BC.
According to the same report, published on May 19, 2022, Yemeni honey enjoys a very well- known commercial reputation.
Yemeni Sidr honey, which plays a vital role in the local economy, is considered as one of the most expensive and finest types of honey in the world. It is one of the best varieties in the world.
The history of honey trade in Yemen indicates that it occupied the fourth rank in the economy of the Kingdom of Hadramout during the tenth century BC.
Historians and philosophers wrote about Yemeni honey. Singers like Abu Bakr Salem sang about honey. The song is called "Oh honey, oh Da'an".
During the period (64 BC - 24 AD), the Greek historian and philosopher Strabo wrote about Yemeni honey, and the efforts of the beekeepers to climb the mountains like Bani Salim mountains in search of bee sects known for their abundance of honey, reference from the book “Al-Mufassal in the History of the Arabs Before Islam” by Ali Jawad, 1971.
As for the Yemeni regions in which the profession of beekeeping is widespread, the data of the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, Agricultural Statistics Book 2019, indicate that honey is spread in most Yemeni governorates with Hadramout ranked first in the amount of honey produced, followed by Shabwa, Abyan and Al-Hodeidah.
The distinction of Yemeni honey comes from the diversity of the terrain of Yemen between mountains, valleys, wide plateaus and coasts, as well as the diversity of bee pastures according to the plant diversity, flowers and fruits, which led to a great diversity of honey types.
A study by Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, “Beekeeping and Honey Production under Conditions of War in Yemen,” published in March 2023, explains that honey is named after the percentage of the plant from which the nectar was collected. The study adds that Sidr trees produce the finest and purest varieties of honey.
Stressing that more than 1000 species of plants are spread in Yemen in the areas of vegetation cover that bees collect nectar and pollen from, Yemeni beekeepers move bee sects from one place to another throughout the year in search of suitable fields for their bees.
Honey trade is of great significance due to its economical benefits and is a good source of income for Yemenis. According to the official statistics of the Yemeni Ministry of Agriculture in 2002, the number of Yemeni beekeepers reached 81,734 beekeepers. The report adds that Yemeni honey was classified by Yemeni government in 2003 as one of the five strategic commodities for its essential role to play in rebuilding the economy.
Today, the profession of beekeeping is one of the most important sources of income to several low-income households especially those in rural areas in Yemen.
In May 2023, FAO indicated that about 100,000 families work in the honey production, noting that an increasing number of Yemeni youth are interested in the honey trade.
Decrease in Honey Production
Despite the great significance of honey, its production declined during the proliferation of armed conflicts in Yemen.
According to the Yemeni Beekeepers Union, Yemen exported 50 thousand tons until 2014. They reported a decrease by %50 since the conflict started in 2015.
Many beekeepers, researchers, and studies attribute the decline in honey production and export to conditions of conflict, economic decline, and others related to climate change.
Mansour Abdel-Razzaq, an agricultural engineer, explains that the biggest challenge facing honey production is the difficulty of moving beehives from one area to another to search for proper fields. This is because of the confrontations among the parties of the conflict, especially when random shells fall on beehives and destroy them.
Mr. Mansour added that the deterioration of the population’s financial conditions is the main reason for the decline in honey production. Therefore, Yemenis resort to basic food choices, and consider honey as a luxury (not a basic need). This had its impacts on the demand of honey. Due to the security unrest, beekeepers are robbed by armed groups who live in valleys.
He stressed that the main reason for the decline in honey production is that the state allows the import of honey to Yemen from abroad. Traders import honey from Kashmir, which is of acceptable quality, and of cheaper price than Yemeni honey. The state of Kashmir confirmed that lots of tons of honey are exported to Yemen.
Several honey merchants relate the challenges facing the beekeeping sector to the weak plans of exporting honey abroad and to the lack of packaging materials, confirmed by.
Due to the high prices of cooking gas, many Yemenis resorted to excessive logging of trees, including Sidr trees to be used for cooking as an alternative to cooking gas. This decreased the number of Sidr trees bees feed on.
According to the Liquid Gold report issued by the Guardian in March 2021, a big number of beekeepers are exposed to security risks like injury or death by landmines used in the areas under the conflict when moving among plateaus, valleys and mountains in search of a field for their bees.
According to Reuters report issued on June 21, 2021 (Known beekeepers in Yemen Feel the Sting of the Effects of Climate Change), the rainfall in Yemen affects the flowering seasons of Sidr trees. In recent years, heavy rainfall has caused early fall of Sidr flowers before the bees could collect their nectar.
In addition, the excessive logging and the spread of locusts followed by pesticide campaigns and anti-mosquito campaigns that negatively affect honey production are all considered environmental threats to bee colonies.
International calls focus on rapid global action to support pollinator-friendly agricultural production, highlighting the importance of protecting bees and other pollinators.
NGOs had a big role in supporting honey production. Recently, about 700 households benefited from beekeeping livelihood projects funded by the World Bank. The outcome of this project was an increase in production and profits for beekeepers, with some beekeepers expanding their activities and increasing the number of beehives.
FAO has also worked with local communities to strengthen the resilience of beekeepers to climate shocks, while saving bees that do not only play a role in honey production, but also as pollinators.
The project, funded by the World Bank, provided 600 kilograms of biopesticides to Yemen as a safe alternative to chemical pesticides, and biological control was strengthened in the fight against other pests.
The repercussions of the conflict and climatic change are factors threatening the beekeeping sector in Yemen. This is an alert to take all necessary measures to limit the decline in honey production, so that Yemeni honey keeps its global appreciation and its uniqueness for its price and quality.
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