Czech beekeepers suffer worst season in 50 years, and honey prices may rise as a result

The Czech Republic has the most beekeepers per capita in the European Union, but 2020 was not a good year for them

Samantha Tatro

Written by Samantha Tatro
Published on 05.11.2020 16:11 (updated on 05.11.2020)

Czech beekeepers had their worst season in 50 years, according to a report in Seznam Zpravy, driving prices up as demand for honey increases.

This year's chilly May and June months took quite a toll on beekeepers in the country. Demand continues to increase, but beekeepers can't keep up. This year, according to the Czech Association of Beekeepers, domestic bees produced 4,800 tons of honey. 

This number doesn't quite correspond to the average bee production for individual beekeepers across the country, though. Beekeepers across the Czech Republic have reported fewer and fewer honey yields each year.

"According to witnesses, this season is the worst in the last fifty years. According to the information I have, they are also doing badly in Slovakia and other neighboring countries," Jarmila Machová, president of the Czech Association of Beekeepers, told Seznam Zpravy.

The main reason is the weather - a cold and rainy May and June, when the bees could not fly, collect nectar and pollen. There was almost no honeydew honey."

A beekeeper managing his hive. Photo by FRANK MERIÑO from Pexels
A beekeeper managing his hive. Photo by FRANK MERIÑO from Pexels

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Heavy agriculture has been reducing biodiversity in the Czech Republic, specifically the number of meadows and flowers for bees. Farmers use certain pesticides that will kill insects.

In addition to farming, years of drought in the country have dramatically reduced the amount of nectar in flowers; bees, in turn, do not have enough food to saturate.

All these factors combined will weaken bee colonies, leaving them more susceptible to diseases like bee plague or varroosis.

Slavia pojišťovna now offers insurance for beekeepers to help protect them and their colonies from certain risks.

Beekeeping in the Czech Republic has become increasingly difficult in recent years, Jiří Mlateček told Seznam Zpravy. He started beekeeping with his father ten years ago in Třebechovice pod Orebem.

"This year's production was abnormally low, about a third of what we had two years ago," Mlateček said. He cares for 40 hives, but he used to have up to 60 hives, in better years.

It won't be clear until much later how the year's conditions will impact world honey production. According to data from 2018, the Czech Republic ranked as 39th in world honey production, among the top third of all countries.

A beekeeper manages his hive. Photo by Anete Lusina from Pexels
A beekeeper manages his hive. Photo by Anete Lusina from Pexels

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The honey production won't be enough to cover the growing demand for honey from locals. Data from 2018 says that every Czech consumes about a kilogram of honey each year, on average.

Due to this demand, the country will often import honey from Ukraine to meet their need. However, the country will, at the same time, export some of their local honey to Slovakia, France, and Germany.

The Impact on the Price of Honey

Expensive honey quality inspections, bad weather conditions, and a growing demand for honey, mixed with a low yield in 2020, will make honey more expensive this year, beekeepers say.

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"When there is a shortage of something, the price goes up. Of course, I'm talking about the price of honey when sold from the yard. It is on average CZK 150 per kilogram, but in Prague, for example, you can pay over CZK 200. I expect the price to increase from 10 to 30 crowns per kilogram," Machová told Seznam.

The increase in price might not be reflected at the retail level, though.

"The purchasing power and the willingness of the consumer to pay the increased price are also important. And it is different in cities and in the countryside. So I think that if there is an increase in prices in stores, it will not be dramatic," Machová added.

Beekeepers. Photo by Arthur Brognoli from Pexels
Beekeepers. Photo by Arthur Brognoli from Pexels

Beekeeping in the Czech Republic

Beekeeping is a longstanding tradition in the Czech Republic, and the country has the most beekeepers per capita in the European Union, according to statistics. In the Czech Republic, most keepers are located in Central Bohemia and Karlovy Vary. Prague has the highest number of beekeepers.

The country also ranks high when it comes to the number of hives per square kilometer. The Czech Republic has the third highest number of hives per square kilometer in Europe, according to the analytical project Europe in the data and data of the Food and Agriculture Organization from 2018. Across the world, only Turkey, Serbia, and South Korea had more hives per square kilometer.

"Beekeeping is a hobby in which I am always learning something new. Watching the bees work and communicate with each other is wonderful and recharging," says Mlateček.

"Bees teach me patience and I realize in them how we are connected to nature and how we depend on it. This leads to humility."