Land of Milk and Honey

Last week Triple E Knowledge Center and the Foundation for Bees (Bijenstichting) presented to the newly installed Dutch governmental commission for Economics, Agriculture and Innovation in The Hague their new book The Netherlands: land of milk and honey.

Arnhem, 22 October 2012: In this book two main questions are answered: how important are the honey bees for the Netherlands, and what is the economic value in euro's for the honey bees i.e. beekeeping in the Netherlands.

Until recently nobody could tell anything about this matter, as only the direct costs and investments of the bee keepers themselves were known. However, bees are very important for different sectors of agriculture, green nursery, ornamental horticulture and public green.

Therefore, Triple E investigated this matter extensively the last three years and unlocked all figures and financial processes involved. Triple E concluded that the Dutch beekeeping sector represents an amount of 4.5 billion euro. This amount of money is much more than the 1 billion euro so far figured out by the Wageningen University (Department of Plant Research) and the RABO-bank.

In the book The Netherlands: land of milk and honey you can see how the 4.5 billion euro are build up and how beekeeping contributes to the multiplication of value involved in the four agricultural sectors. With regard to fruit bee keeping is directly related to 80 to 90% of pollination, and in vegetables and ornamental horticulture this percentage is much lower at 10 to 20%. Public green is not figured out. Representing 4.5 billion euro this means that a substantial part of export value for the Netherlands is indirectly related to beekeeping, as the total value of agricultural export is 46 billion euro.

In addition, beekeeping is also important for increasing biodiversity as it pollinates hundreds of indigenous species, i.e. plants, fruit trees, vegetables, bulbs, and herbs.

The last few years West-European as well as American beekeeping is threatened by the so-called colony collapse disorder (disappearance disease), in which sometimes huge losses of bee swarms are seen, as they are killed or do not recover from hibernation.

Important is that there is a Dutch land race of honey bee, i.e. black bee, which only survives on the island of Texel and in Twente, in the east corner of the Netherlands. This black bee seems to be much more resistant to the colony collapse disorder.

At the moment most parties involved, i.e. agriculture, green houses, governmental organizations are not aware of the damage this disease can bring to the export, so are not aware of the importance of keeping more of the black bee colonies, not only in Texel and Twente but also in other parts of the Netherlands.

Triple E & Bijenstichting
René Zanderink, biologist/journalist
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