Kurdistan's honey sticks top honors at industry conference in Egypt
Kurdish beekeepers won first place at an international honey industry event in Egypt. It is the third recent win at a major honey competition. Future conferences may be held in the Kurdistan Region, where honey is drawing the attention of some Gulf companies.

Beekeepers from 24 countries competed in the 10th Arab Union of Beekeepers Conference  and the Ninth Conference of Mediterranean Countries beekeepers in Sharm el-Shaikh, Egypt, in mid-December.

In total, 24 Kurdish beekeepers participated from various parts of Kurdistan. A beekeeper from Mount Shingal won first place.

Walid Khalil Shingali, from the village of Bajase, explained to Rudaw that "the product of my bees, in terms of quality, beat the honeys brought from Arab countries, France, Italy, Greece and imported honeys from Australia and China.”

Shingali had 800 beehives before the ISIS attacks. Once the group came in, he fled to Zakho and lost his bees. After liberation from ISIS, he returned. Now, he has 300 beehives which produce 1,500 kilograms.

"The Saudi, Emirates, and Omani companies are demanding Kurdish honey,” he said, "telling us once flight bans are lifted, we will visit.”

He believes Kurdish honey would have been more awarded, but the judges weren’t just.

"The bulk of the samples brought from Kurdistan to the conference received high marks after assessment, in terms of quality and if the assessment teams weren’t misleading, the first, second and third places would all go Kurdistan,” claimed Shingali.

A Kurdish official credits a suitable local climate as one reason for their successes.

"The weather, variety of flowers and apiculture in a scientific way by some of the beekeepers led the Kurdish honey to win first place,” said Abdulrahman Omer, who is charged with the provision of bee needs and pesticides in the KRG Ministry of Agriculture

Lacking a formal count, it is estimated there are 500,000 beehives in the Kurdistan Region which produce a yearly average of 800 tons of honey, an amount which does not meet the domestic demand of 1,350 tons.

Omer, who earned his PhD in growing and preserving bees, said the Kurdistan Region could house some 1 million beehives and double its annual production, but due to shortcomings — namely in scientific methods and training — "a large number of them perish every year.”

"For example, last year, we had nearly 850 tons, but this year it has decreased by 65 to 70 percent,” he said. "We predict this year’s products will not exceed 300 tons.”

Tayb Rafiq, a Kurdish beekeeper from the village of Almawani in Pirmam town in Erbil who also participated in Egypt, says Kurdish bees are so prevalent because of the many local, wild flowers.

"The reason which has made the Kurdish bees to win the first place for the second time in a row is because a large number of Kurdish beekeepers provide their bees natural flowers and also move their bees from the cold to the hot areas, and vice versa,” he said.

The success in Egypt for Kurdistan isn’t unprecedented. Kurdish honey took top honors at the World Beekeepers Conference in Paris in 2009. In 2015 for the second time at the Arab Beekeepers Union Conference in Najaf, they won.

Arif Abdullah, the head of the Kurdistan Beekeepers Association Network, expects that the next beekeepers’ conference will be in Erbil.

"We are sure even in the next conference, the Kurdistan bees will remain in first place,” asserted Abdullah.

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