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New Honey Labeling Law in Poland Aims for Transparency and Boosts Domestic Market

FOOD & AGRICULTURENew Honey Labeling Law in Poland Aims for Transparency and Boosts Domestic Market

According to a regulation by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development issued on April 18 this year, honey sold in Poland will be required to be labeled with its countries of origin, replacing the generic statement “mixture of honey from/inside the EU”. The label changes will affect approximately 70 percent of products in Polish stores – that’s the share of mixtures in the overall honey sold retail. The goal of the changes is to provide more information for consumers, which – as emphasized by the Polish Chamber of Honey – may influence their attitudes and purchasing decisions. The experts estimate that honey label changes will encompass about 70 percent of those products available in Polish stores.

– In the middle of April this year, an amendment to the regulations changing the current obligations that apply to us as entities introducing food into the market will come into force. According to this change, we will have to additionally mark our bee honey products with countries of origin – says Przemysław Rujna, secretary general of the Polish Honey Chamber Association, to the Newseria Biznes agency.

According to the regulation of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, from April 18, 2024, the packages will be devoid of feathers used so far, general phrasing referring to the place of origin of the raw material, i.e. “mixture of honey from the EU” or “mixture of honey from non-EU countries”. They will be replaced with the mandatory marking of the country or countries in which the honey was collected. As the expert emphasizes, the term “blend” in Polish is rather pejorative, which hampered the sales of products on store shelves from the start.

– This change results from the fact that the information given to the customer so far was incomplete. The customer did not know what they were buying and where exactly the product came from – adds Przemysław Rujna. – Therefore, we put a lot of effort in the European Union and Polish legislation to change this, to also inform the customer. Thanks to the cooperation with the beekeeping organizations, we managed to develop this labeling system that comes into effect from mid-April, because work is still underway throughout the EU.

In the spring of 2023, the European Commission started working on the changes in the EU standards of trading with so-called breakfast directives, including the 2001/110/EC directive, valid for over 20 years, which defines the commercial quality of honey put into the EU market and its member countries. The most important changes stipulated in it assume – just like in Poland – the obligation of marking honey with the country of origin and the introduction of the EU honey identification system (raceability, ang. traceability).

Przemysław Rujna emphasizes that it is the not matching timing of the implementation of Polish and EU regulations that causes Polish consumers to still be able to find “mixtures of honey” labeled according to EU, not Polish requirements. However, this will directly indicate that the product does not come from Polish but foreign producers. Therefore, the Polish Chamber of Honey emphasizes the importance of Polish consumers distinguishing and choosing honey from native companies as it supports Poland’s position in the international trade of this raw material.

– The Polish Chamber of Honey Association is a member of FEEDM – the European Association of Honey Packaging Companies – and together with them, we are working out a joint agricultural policy at the level of the EU. Currently, we are working on making changes regarding honey labeling applicable to all EU countries, but we also want to unify and harmonize all aspects related to the quality of the product so that its quality is the same on all tables in the EU – explains the secretary general of the Polish Chamber of Honey Association. – We, as Polish companies, are currently being a vice leader of the European honey market and a trend setter that introduces new solutions, new quality changes.

Poland is currently the third largest player – both an importer and exporter – in the EU honey market (Germany and Belgium are ahead of us). According to data from the Polish Chamber of Honey Association, Poles consume about 1 kg of honey per person annually, while the average for Western European countries is 1.7 kg and in countries like Greece, it reaches 5 kg. This shows that the domestic market still has great potential in terms of building demand. However, the limitation is the production capabilities. For example, in 2022 the overall consumption of honey in Poland was 38 thousand tons, while Polish beekeepers collected a total of 25 thousand tons of this raw material.

– We have been importing honey for over 25 years because we need it and domestic production is unable to cover demand. So, we can’t talk about an influx of imported honey or any trend of importing in Polish beekeeping business – Przemysław Rujna points out. – It’s worth reaching for concrete data: Poland produces an average of over 20 thousand tons of honey a year, from which it exports about 10 thousand tons. Therefore, with current consumption levels, we have shortages estimated at about 20 thousand tons of honey annually in the country. Most of this honey is imported from Ukraine, just like in other EU countries and the USA.

According to the data for 2023 (without December) a total of 24.5 thousand tons of honey was imported into Poland. For comparison, in all of 2022, the import of this raw material amounted to almost 32 thousand tons. According to the Polish Chamber of Honey, the reason for the drop was less consumption in the domestic market and a decrease in the transport of this raw material from Ukraine, which is the second-largest supplier of honey to the Polish market.

– Honey is a product of animal origin and is subject to the control of commercial quality authorities and veterinary control. Each batch that crosses the border undergoes such a veterinary examination – the expert emphasizes. – Of course, there are some issues occurring, but those are minute on a larger scale.

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