Beekeepers in Yemen face twin risks: if they are not struck down from the air by air strikes, they have to carefully navigate the ground as they traverse through the country’s valleys crisscrossing mine fields, as they transport their hives on pick-up trucks to produce some of the best honey in the world.
Yemen, known for its Sidr honey which is made from the jujube tree, seen 3 years of war, which has pushed the country on the verge of famine and broken the back of its fragile economy.
“Before the war…we produced large quantities of honey. [But now] honey farmers who move their private farms at night sometimes get hit by mistake,” said Faris al-Howry, who owns one of the main honey stores in the capital Sanaa in reference to the country’s beekeepers. “It’s happened with two or three farmers we know where their farms were bombed [in air strikes].”
Since 2015, a coalition led by Saudi Araba has been conducting thousands of air strikes against the Houthi movement which controls the most populous areas of Yemen, including Sanaa.
Before the war, beekeepers helped Yemen’s economy by exporting 50,000 tonnes of honey annually. According to the Federation of Yemeni Beekeepers, there are only 100,000 people working in honey farms across Yemen.
“Breeders must now be mindful that when they’re trying to move from location to location, they could be targeted or bombed by mistake,” said Abdullah Abdullah Yareem, head of the Yemeni Organization for Honey and Agriculture Development while adding that exporting honey has become an expensive business. The Saudi-led coalition has imposed stringent measures on maritime flows, as a result all exports flow only to Saudi Arabia.
“This has created a problem that raised transportation costs making the product reach the consumer at a very high price,” said Abdullah.
This is bad news for Yemen’s beekeepers since few people can afford luxuries. The price of honey in Yemen ranges from $100 for 1 kilo of Sidr to $68 for less premium types. Outside of Yemen the honey sell for around $180 dollars per kilo.
“Sales are down 75 percent…There is no income, no salaries and no spending,” said Abdullah.