Honey Chain Traceability in Guatemala
The project seeks to maintain and extend international market access for Guatemalan honey, with a view to improving living conditions for beekeepers and other actors in the country's honey chain. This will be achieved through the development and implementation of an electronic traceability records system, which will make it possible to monitor the movement of apicultural products and improve good production and manufacturing practices.
In Guatemala, beekeeping is generally practised as a secondary activity by small‑scale farmers, and is a source of temporary employment, particularly during the harvesting season. The sector's main activities revolve around honey exports, with virtually no marketing of any other hive by‑product, such as pollen, propolis, royal jelly or wax. There are an estimated 3,000 beekeepers and 150,000 beehives nationwide. In total, 1,421 beekeepers, with 95,376 beehives, are registered in the Guatemalan Beekeeping Register (REGAPI) database of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food (MAGA). Another 31 establishments responsible for the collection, processing, packaging and export of natural honey, seven of which are cooperatives or associations of small‑scale honey producers, are registered in the MAGA Safety Directorate's Safety System (SII).
Regarding food safety, efforts have been made to increase the level of technology used in honey production, and yet certain practices continue to result in the contamination of honey and its by‑products, such as the use of chemicals that can leave behind residues and ultimately affect consumer health. Furthermore, different formats are used to record the various production, processing and distribution procedures, which makes it impossible to ensure proper product traceability. As mentioned before, Guatemala now exports natural honey to the European Union, the United States and Central America, and this has encouraged many producers to improve their production processes, including by applying HACCP‑equivalent systems. It is nevertheless hoped that by establishing practices such as traceability records, the export volume will increase.
There have been a number of cases of honey contamination in Guatemala, but it has been difficult to establish exact places of origin due to the absence of specific traceability records. While contaminated products have been destroyed to protect consumer health, it has not been possible to identify the specific beekeepers concerned in order to rectify any sub‑standard honey‑production practices.
Guatemala has introduced domestic legislation (Ministerial Decision No. 169‑2012) to ensure all beekeepers are registered for the purposes of traceability and the application of various types of sanitary measure, the aim being to improve the safety of honey produced in the country. The implementation of an electronic records system is important for ensuring compliance with this legislation.
Electronic traceability system
Guatemala envisages the project's first result to be the development and implementation of a honey chain traceability system that shows the movement of the product through its production, processing and marketing stages.
To achieve this result, the physical documentary records currently in use will be updated. This updating process will provide the basis for the design and development of the electronic system and help standardize record codes and descriptions. Once the system is complete, it will be tested by users (both officials and beekeeping cooperatives), with a view to making any relevant adjustments. The system will be permanently cloud‑based, which will make it easier to obtain the required information without delay.
Good production and manufacturing practices in beekeeping
The project's second result will be to strengthen beekeepers' capacities in respect of the application of good production and manufacturing practices, beginning with the groups of producers covered by the project, which are based in the southern, western and northern regions of Guatemala. Training events will be held at cooperative group headquarters, where relevant training materials will be provided. This result also includes the formulation and implementation of an annual sanitary inspection plan.