Its mountainous terrain and unique flora make the Caucasus an ideal environment for honey production. Beekeeping is one of the oldest crafts in the region, whose practitioners hold a wealth of knowledge on the sector.
In recent years, however, the sector has been facing a multitude of challenges. Lack of modern technology, inadequate provisions for training and education, absence of effective platforms to promote sectoral development and lack of cooperation in the region are identified as key obstacles. Consequently, issues of quality control and access to up-to-date technology and information are hindering further development and access to new markets. These challenges are further exacerbated by inadequate material and financial support by authorities and investors. As a result, the honey market of the contemporary South Caucasus is mostly defined by cheap, low-quality and mass produced imports.
The concept behind “Caucasus Honey” was conceived during a beekeepers’ meeting in Gyumri in February 2011 when experts across the region discussed the possibilities of creating a common Caucasus Honey brand with the view of promoting cooperation through a joint endeavour.
Consequently, throughout 2011, CBDN engaged with beekeepers across the region to take the initiative further. Based on this work, seven pilot designs, or collections of Caucasus Honey were created. These prototypes were presented during the Caucasus Tea Festival on October 16th, in Tbilisi. Each collection consisted of seven unique types of honeys from Shirak, Karabakh, Zaqatala, Znaur, Kars, Tkvarchal/i, and Gardabani, designed to symbolise an economically connected and cooperating Caucasus.
During the festival, the public was invited to taste selections of honeys and vote for their favourite option, to be included in the Caucasus blend. Hundreds attended the festival, tasted the honey, learned about the Caucasus Brands and gave their feedback, which contributed to the development of the product.
In 2012, CBDN organised a cross-learning trip of South Caucasian beekeepers to Kars, Turkey. The trip convened a group of beekeepers from across the region to discuss and address some of the common problems that faced their occupation. Attendees received training on the treatment of honey-bee diseases, as well as a session on apitherapy – the use of bee products as alternative remedies, and non-traditional beekeeping methods. The Caucasus Honey assortment was demonstrated to the beekeepers on the first day of the trip, and received positive support as an example of regional cooperation.
The same year, with generous support from the Czech embassy, CBDN beekeepers created a new “nomadic” pavilion apiary in Gardabani national park, Georgia. The apiary is used to pilot new technologies and beekeeping methods, engaging support and input from practitioners from across the region. Using bee colonies from the “Caucasian grey mountain bee” species, we achieved a harvest in the first year of 500-600 kilograms of honey. The honey produced by the CBDN apiary is high-quality, ecologically clean and corresponds to the import standards of the European Union.
The current assortment within the Caucasus Honey brand consists of eight natural honeys from Abkhazia, Gyumri, Kars, Lanchkhuti, Nagorny Karabakh, South Ossetia, Zaqatala, and ivy honey from CBDN’s own apiary.