Bee producers explain to visitors how honey is made and how a bee hive is organized and functions during the 9th Festival of Honey and Bee products in Neo Faliro, a southern suburb of Athens, Greece, on Dec. 3, 2017. (Xinhua/Lefteris Partsalis)
by Alexia Vlachou
ATHENS, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- It's a sweet gathering when over 250 bee products makers from across Greece gathered this weekend in Neo Faliro, southern Greece, to exchange their techniques and seek cooperation with traders from Europe and Asia.
Under the auspices of the agriculture and food ministry, experts, amateurs, and connoisseurs came together for three days for seminars, honey tastings, bee-keeping demonstrations, and children's shows. Meanwhile, chefs prepared honey-inspired dishes, sweets, and made cocktails.
"Within the nine years of the festival, we have seen small producers expand their small cottage industries to a level where they can export to Europe and other regions," said George Stathis, a member of festival's organizing committee, to Xinhua.
"Producers provide their honey to hotels in Hong Kong. Greek honey is included in hotels' breakfast and restaurants in countries across the world," he noted.
Unique in color, aroma, taste, and thickness, Greek honey -- the beverage and food of the ancient Greek Gods known as nectar and ambrosia -- has been used both as a food and a source of therapy since ancient times.
Greece produces an average of 14,000 tons of honey per year. The small Mediterranean country is the third largest honey producer in Europe behind Spain and France. But Greece has more beehives "per acre" than any other country in Europe, according to Stathis.
There are currently about 27,000 to 30,000 beekeepers across Greece. About 60 percent of them have 50 to 60 hives, but professional beekeepers own more than 200 hives and earn at least 50 percent of their annual income from them.
Meanwhile, the average consumption of honey in a Greek family is 12 kg per year.
"The target is to reach up to 15 to 16 kg per year," Stathis said.
Regarding exports, Stathis stressed that honey should not have a prohibitive cost for consumers abroad. "The pricing is not the same in Greece and China for example, but producers and operators have succeeded in not quadrupling its price when exporting it," he said.
Another advantage of honey is that it is a food source with no expiration date. "You may see raw, pure Greek unprocessed honey crystallize. This is natural with raw unfiltered honey. You can simply place the jar in a bowl of warm water and the crystals will melt," Stathis explained.
As a country with abundant flora in the Mediterranean basin, and more than 7,500 different species of herbs, plants, wildflowers, and trees, Greece has a wide range of honey.
The honey produced in Greece comes mainly from pine and fir trees, while some honey is produced from the flower nectar from thyme, orange blossom, cotton, heather, and sunflower, among others.
Besides honey, by-products like beeswax, propolis, and royal jelly used in the cosmetic industry can boost exports, experts pointed out.
"There are organic products from bees' products at affordable prices," Stathis explained.
During the festival, which is considered one of the most significant industry events in Greece, visitors could also see producers harvest royal jelly, render beeswax from honeycomb, collect bee's venom, which is used in the pharmaceutical sector, among other interesting activities.