The double demand for honey products and pandemic prevention measures create challenges that beekeepers overcome.

"Following the pandemic outbreak, we could see a clear spike in general awareness about the importance of healthy living and the need to boost immunity. In the last two weeks of March, the demand for honey and other honey products doubled in comparison to the last year,” says Amina Muharemagić from Tuzla.

Goran Mirjanić from Gradiška concurs. “All of a sudden we were in the position to sell all of our honey. The problem was that 2019 was a bad year for honey production and our reserves started running low."

Challenges and ways to overcome them

Amina runs BeeMed, which buys, packages, and sells honey and other products from more than 140 farmers from all over Bosnia and Hercegovina. Goran runs Košnica that trades in beekeeping equipment and he produces and collects honey from some 50 beekeepers in Northern Bosnia near the Croatian border.

Both BeeMed and Košnica enjoyed the support of the Sweden/USAID FARMA II project in setting up and developing their businesses. The project helped them purchase equipment necessary to expand their production, engage additional beekeepers, develop their brands (BeeMed and Med Medeni), and promote their products in domestic and international markets and online.

“Our main problems were the limited ability to move and the low levels of reserves of honey and jars,” says Amina. “We were not ready for the pandemic.  Firstly, the prevention measures initially grounded many beekeepers and other farmers who are over 65. Secondly, as the demand rocketed we had to start rationing our deliveries to satisfy as many of our customers as possible.”

For Goran, the issue was that his direct sales of beekeeping equipment to customers from Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, and Hungary, which account for 70 percent of his business, almost halted. “We had just about enough business to keep us afloat.”

Both made it through. “Following the initial shock, we regrouped. Some of the measures were amended to allow farmers and beekeepers to do their work and we started visiting them to deliver collect their products and raw materials. With a bit of time and market search we also manage to acquire jars we needed to continue packaging our products,” Amina explains.

Goran turned his focus to his beekeeping part of business. He went back to working beehives while his children and wife turned to online promotion and sales of honey and other bee products. "I am happy with the sales we make from our Facebook presence," he says.

The most positive people

Amina and Goran note that the most positive people during the coronavirus crisis are the beekeepers. Amina further points out that "the beekeeping is the best thing you can do these days. It implies being out in nature, it provides for social distancing, and all bee products such as honey, royal jelly, and propolis are healthy beyond anything else and good for the immunity.”

The COVID-19 pandemic, after all, did not affect the work of the beekeepers in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and they seem to be even busier as they cope with the challenges of doing business during the pandemic. The original surge in the demand for honey normalized in the second half of April and now follows the regular seasonal curve. The curve starts going up in October and comes down towards the end of April, just in time for the new amounts of honey to be produced from May to September.