One of the things I often encounter when talking to shop owners or retailers is "we only do local honey.....and Manuka"
When I ask about why this is, I mostly get told that they want to support local beekeepers, local honey is good for hay fever and that everyone wants Manuka honey because it is good for you.
Hmmmmmm, I feel that this picture is a little incomplete and a slightly wider perspective may be helpful.
Firstly, I am fully supportive of local beekeepers (I personally support five who are all local to within 20 kilometers of me) and that everything that promotes good Apiculture, bee populations and raw honey production is a GOOD THING. Owing to the mistakes of monoculture and industrial farming methods, we have manged to wipe out many of our pollinators through the use of insecticides and pesticides and have left the humble honeybee to shoulder the burden of pollination for us. A cursory look at a list of the foods honeybees pollinate for us reveals this amazing statistic.(According to the U.N. report, of the 100 crop species that supply 90 percent of the world's food, bees pollinate more than 70 percent )
So the next time you eat an orange, squeeze a lemon, eat an almond or peach, raspberry, beets, buckwheat, broad bean, avocado or any of the staggering number of other foods on the shelf of your health food shop or supermarket, a honeybee somewhere in the world made that possible. We've often heard the quote attributed to Albert Einstein, that were the bees to disappear we would follow in four years. It does seem to have a ring of truth about it.( It is also shameful and alarming that the latest EU move to ban a certain class of systemic insecticide know as neonicotinoids shown to be demonstrably harmful to honeybees was blocked by the UK govt thanks to industry lobbying. .. worth a whole post in its own right)
Last year was a tough year for honey producers. The inclement weather has made it very tough to produce honey and the added horror of massive environmental stresses is decimating honeybee populations. Last year the US had the smallest honey production year on record only 55,000 tonnes and record loss of bee populations.
Should we cut down food miles where possible ? Should we support local food producers and our local economies ? Of course we should, I doubt most people apart from the most rabid neo-liberal globalists would suggest otherwise. But How Local is the World we live in ? If we confine ourselves to eating and consuming only foods and products indigenous to our environment or country we might find that our diets get very, very simplified, (not to mention more expensive). We live in a massively interdependent world, we rely on fuel imports, food imports, financial imports, raw material imports, the list goes on and on. I think what I'm gently suggesting here is that we need our bee populations Everywhere to thrive and that there is no room for parochialism or ideology here. So to buy sustainably produced Raw Honey from good beekeepers is a vital thing and to dismiss all honey which is neither local nor Manuka is not doing ourselves or food security any favours. Honey is the cash crop which allows beekeepers to keep bees. When we dismiss, our beautiful Iberian and Portuguese monofloral raw honeys because they are "not local" we undermine our own food security. I think there's room for all us, in fact I'd venture to say we are all vital for the health and survival of each other.