invites you to visit the world of Central Asian Honeys...
Uzbekistan - Kirghiztan -
Tadjikistan - Kazakhstan
Central Asian natural conditions are extremely diversified. It is composed of
plains, deserts and high mountains (Tian Chan, Pamir), which continue up to the
Himalayan chain itself.
You will find there huge unpolluted spaces, with lots
of nectar plants, conditions which are ideal for beekeeping. The major honey
producers of the area are Kirghizia, Uzbekistan, Tadjikistan and the south of
During the Soviet times, beekeeping was very well
developed, and organized within a framework of State structures. However,
private beekeepers were permitted to have their own honey production and to sell
it for their own profit, which was highly appreciated at that time.
Because of it, there is a long tradition of beekeeping in Central Asia, and the
most qualified local beekeepers are even capable of really complex operations
like queen breeding etc. This story led to real beekeepers dynasties, like for
instance this family shown below, from the Fergana valley, which operates a
total of 4,000 hives.
Lots of beekeepers are still private individuals,
producing honey with a few hives and for their own family needs. Besides,
professional beekeepers operate in general from 150 to 300 hives. They practice
transhumant beekeeping, moving trailers where hives are fixed on a permanent
The most widespread bee stock in Central Asia is Apis mellifica carnica, of
Carpathian ecotype. It is very well adapted to the local environmental
conditions, including to the extremely heavy temperature fluctuations.
Beekeeping trailers are of two types,
either the open type or closed wagons.
Closed wagons offer particularly good
working conditions: beekeepers perform their operations from the inside of the
wagon, in general with an integrated extractor. Beekeepers themselves live also
inside one of the wagons.
Beekeeping season depends on local climatic conditions: southern areas, close to
the Afghan border may start in March, earlier than others, which usually start
In spring, beekeepers start moving to one or sometimes to a few wild areas. If
we consider for instance the central Uzbekistan area (Samarkand, Jizzak),
beekeepers start moving to the Kizilkum desert and then to the mountains located
in the north of Samarkand. The Kirghiz and the Uzbeks of the Fergana valley
(Fergana, Andijan, Osh) already leave for the Kirghiz mountains as early as
April/May. Then, in July, everybody comes back to the valley because this is the
start of the cotton season which will last till the end of September.
Spring migrations /
This approach means that for half of the
season, beekeepers operate far from any towns, industries or industrial crops.
Therefore, with a few minor changes in the production process, this honey will
be ready for a qualification as organic honey.
The major problem faced by Central Asian beekeepers today is the marketing of
their products. At the time of the Soviet Union, this question was handled by
the State, notwithstanding private family sales. Today nobody took its place,
export sales are only performed through Cenasco and a few Turkish or Russian
smugglers exporting honey illegally. Beekeepers have only the solution of
selling their honey on a very small scale on the local markets and if possible,
try to do barter with their own suppliers.
When Cenasco appeared as a firm buyer on the markets, after an initial
apprehension period, beekeepers started to modify their behaviors because, for
the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, they were foreseeing
possibilities for regular sales in the long run. In particular, they started to
be much more careful in using drugs in their hives. However, their low level of
production and the lack of financial means, for instance to buy highly
productive queens, has still a very negative impact on their productivity and of
course on their costs.
We consider that it is today impossible to give serious production figures for
the area. Extremely unrealistic figures are shown from times to times, without
any possibility of crosschecking. However, we can say that in each of these
countries (Uzbekistan, Kirghizia, Tadjikistan and the south of Kazakhstan) there
is a confirmed output of a few thousand tons of honey. Today the only country
which obtained a European agreement for honey imports into the EU is Kirghizia.
Uzbekistan is also working on this issue.
arboreum, Gossipium herbaceum
This honey represents about 50 % of the total regional output.
It is worth mentionning that cotton crops, which had been drowned under
pesticides at the Soviet times, became today totally clean. This does not come
from ideological reasons but simply because they are too expensive. They have
been replaced by a very inexpensive way of fighting against cotton parasites:
in every village they breed small butterflies which are the natural predators
of cotton worms. Therefore there are no longer any contamination of the cotton
honey by chemicals.
Cotton honey is a creamy honey of light amber colour (about 17 to 35 mm) with
a mild, pleasant, flowery taste, without excessive acidity.
The remaining 50 %
of the total output are represented by a few uniflor quite specific honeys and
polyflor wild flowers honey, which comes mostly from the Kirghizian mountains,
like this one, light and creamy.
Scientific names: Alhagi canescens (Regel) Keller & Shap., Alhagi
kirghisorum Schrenk (camel’s thorn), Alhagi persarum Boiss. & Buhse,
Alhagi pseudalhagi Desv.
Pungent durable bush. It can be found in the Kizylkum desert, among other
This plant gives a light amber, quite mild, quite pleasant, slightly
acidulous, flowerish honey.
Scientific names: Psoralea drupacea, Cullen drupaceum (Bunge)
Other species: Cullen americanum, Cullen cinerea, Cullen corylifolium,
Cullen drupaceum, Cullen glandulosa, Cullen graveolens, Cullen obtusifolium,
Cullen patens, Cullen tenax, Cullen tomentosum
Durable herb, used in the treatment of the vitiligo.
Snow-white, quite mild, quite pleasant, flowerish honey (in general lower than
10 mm), no bitter taste.
Scientific names: Centaurea squarrosa, Centaurea depressa, Centaurea
This plant gives an average amber, slightly spicy and quite typical honey.
It is worth mentionning that in general the whole region is very dry,
especially the plains and the deserts. This is reflected in the low humidity
rate of Central Asian honeys (only 16 to 17 %!).
All this seems to draw an ideal picture of the local
beekeeping situation. However, this has to be precised: the local exogenous
conditions of beekeeping are excellent, but sometimes local practices may create
some problems (e.g. the use of antibiotics for prophylactic purposes). Analysis
may show an inacceptable level of prohibited substances. Therefore, we recommand
a very careful approach. The use of sugar remains however at a quite acceptable
stage (5 kg to feed a hive for a whole year). We did not meet any case of
Byproducts like propolis and pollen can also be
found. These products are only marketed locally for the time beeing.
your future partner in Central Asia?
- A brief historical presentation:
Cenasco SA is a Swiss, Geneva registered company, established 1993 with the
purpose of developping trading activities in Central Asia.
Till 2001, Cenasco has been very active as a representative of European
companies looking for large State projects (about US$ 180 million of achieved
This activity has been reduced because of a serious drop in State project
budgets. Today Cenasco is very much involved in the fashion area (NafNaf and
Jean Daniel shops, Garment manufacturing workshop), in the cosmetics area
(Yves Rocher shop) and in pharmaceuticals imports.
Cenasco has a staff of about 40, most of them working in a subsidiary: Cenasco
Trading (bank references: Crédit Agricole of Geneva).
- Cenasco honey department
We are a relatively inexperienced company in the honey business: Cenasco has
been working in this field since 2003 only, and with quite unsignificant
volumes of 100-150 tons / year. However, our organization is fit to operate on
much larger volumes and we do not have any serious competitor in the major
beekeeping countries of the area (Uzbekistan, Kirghizia, Tadjikistan).
We collect directly our honey from the beekeepers, working by means of
regional collecting centers. We have our own regional representatives, who are
in permanent contact with the beekeepers. We operate from Tashkent and we have
three regional bases: Samarkand and Fergana/Namangan in Uzbekistan, and Osh in
Kirghizia. We may open a fourth one in the northern Tadjikistan where there is
a huge honey potential and where we just started to buy honey.
addition, we opened a laboratory in Tashkent, specially dedicated to honey
analysis, and capable to perform all physical and chemical usual tests, plus
some antibiotics researches (chloramphenicol, nitrofurans) using the Elisa
approach. To our knowledge, it is the only laboratory of its kind in Central
All test results are included into a data base, with details of any beekeeper, and with all additional information collected during our
meetings with them. This gives us the advantage of cumulating experience and
of getting a much better knowledge of the beekeeping environment in Central
Asia. During the first two years, we had to eliminate about 50 % of the samples
collected, because of identified contamination, an extremely significant
figure. Our data base gave us the opportunity of drawing a contamination map
in Central Asia, which has to our knowledge no equivalent.
In our approach we are trying to develop a close cooperation with the
beekeepers, individually or through their associations, in order to help them
in the field of training and of sanitary practices. A project of queen
breeding center is also under investigation.
Collecting and shipping honey:
collected in the beekeeper’s premices, the original containers beeing
samples are then mixed, in order to have an average quantity of 4 tons (from
2.5 to 5 tons), for one or several beekeepers. Then analysis are performed in
parallel in our laboratory and in Europe (Applica in Germany or Cetam in France).
eliminating the contaminated samples, the selected honey is packed into drums
(reconditionned 200 L drums, repainted with food-grade paint, with or without
polyethylen bags upon clients’ requirements).
marqued with a number including the following information:
Beekeeper’s code with its region
This procedure enables us to guarantee a full tracability.
then shipped to the clients, in general by train, which is the cheapest way
from Central Asia.
- As an option, it is then possible to stop
for an intermediate step in Poland in a partner’s plant, in order to
standardize, purify and homogenize the honey. This concerns of course only the
honeys to be shipped to Europe or to the US East Coast.
Usman Usupova str 1
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||Sales: Thierry Sompairac
Last update: 08/12/00
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