Slovenia celebrating second international World Bee Day
Ljubljana, 18 May - Slovenia is gearing up to celebrate the second international World Bee Day, designated by the UN on Slovenia's own initiative, with the main event marking the holiday taking place in Ravne na Koroškem (N) on Saturday. Several exhibitions and workshops will also be organised.
The international day acknowledging the role of bees and other pollinators for the ecosystem is observed on 20 May, the birthday of Slovenian Anton Janša, the pioneer of beekeeping, born in 1734.
The day dedicated to honey bees was declared in December 2017 by the UN General Assembly with a special resolution, honouring the initiative and efforts for bee protection by the Slovenian government and the national Beekepers' Association.
"The declaration represents one of the greatest diplomatic achievements of Slovenia ever," the Slovenian Agriculture Ministry said ahead of the event.
It added that the main purpose of World Bee Day was to raise the awareness of the global public about the importance of bees and other pollinators for humankind in the light of efforts to eradicate global hunger.
The ministry noted that bees and other pollinators were indispensable from the economic, social and environmental aspects, and a source of income for more than two billion farmers.
They also significantly contribute to food security, prevention of hunger, preservation of diversity of ecosystems and the implementation of sustainable development goals.
But the ministry also noted that bees were increasingly endangered due to the intensive farming, diseases, mass use of pesticides and climate change.
"World Bee Day is an opportunity for experts, politicians, businesses and public to get active in preserving bees, developing beekeeping, maintaining biodiversity and planning activities which ensure the survival of bees and humans."
The main international ceremony will be held in Rome on Monday, hosted by the Slovenian Agriculture Ministry and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), featuring Minister Aleksandra Pivec and FAO Director-general Jose Graziano da Silva.
The common thread of the second World Bee Day is empowering women through beekeeping, while the ministry has also pointed to its initiative presented to the European Commission for mandatory labelling of honey mixtures and origin of honey.
The latter is something Slovenian beekeepers have been calling for, in addition to the fight against fake honey, lower taxes for medicines for bees and refunds of excise duties for energy they spend for transporting and caring for bees.
Boštjan Noč, the head of the Beekeepers' Association, recently said that additional efforts were needed to protect bees as they were effectively endangered. "World Bee Day has resulted in a sea of change in Slovenia and the world, but celebrations and photo shoots will not save bees."
The association has long argued bees should be classified among endangered species, with Noč stressing the animals cannot survive without human help, which requires the state changing some rules.
Beekeepers have also warned that due to the unfavourable weather, this year's harvest will be lower by more than 30% than expected.
Among the promotional activities related to World Bee Day, Slovenia plans to introduce a Golden Bee award for best and most innovative projects focused on the protection of bees and other pollinators. The award would be conferred every year or every two years by the president, with the first award scheduled for 2021.
To mark the day, the Statistics Office published some beekeeping statistics, noting that Slovenian beekeepers produced a total of 1,746 tonnes of honey last year, which is 10% above the average for the last ten years.
The average price for a kilogram of honey increased in the last ten years by 81%, reaching almost ten euros last year, according to the Statistics Office.
The record year in the last ten years was 2011, when Slovenian beekeepers produced 2,472 tonnes of honey, followed by 2013, when the production reached 2,400 tonnes.
Slovenia imported around EUR 3.5 million-worth of honey from other EU member states last year, mostly from Croatia, Hungary and Germany, while exporting around EUR 212,000, mostly to Italy.
In addition to honey, Slovenian beekeepers also export Carniolan honey bees, with exports last year amounting to around EUR 47,000, mostly to the Middle East countries and Japan.
The number of beekeepers in Slovenia increased in the last ten years by 30% to around 10,100, while their number in the EU is decreasing. The area intended for bee pasture in Slovenia has also been increasing in the recent years.
In 2016, there were a total of 167,000 bee hives in Slovenia or 1.1% of the total number in the EU, with the average number of bee hives per beekeeper at 17.
There are around 20,000 sub-species of bees in the world, with the Carniolan honey bee, originating from Slovenia, being the second most widespread sub-species in the world.