Honey Glazing the World Sociedad Apícola Maya has turned honey into a sweet business with stringent quality and food safety controls.
ons ago, a rich diversity of nectar producing plants blossomed from the fertile soils of the Yucatán Peninsula. Then along came the bees and they did the rest. In 1976, a group of honey producers got together so the rest of the world could enjoy the delicious honey produced in Yucatán. Sociedad Apícola Maya, as these producers call themselves, is a leading Mexican honey exporter, not only in terms of sales but also because of its cooperative-like structure that allows beekeepers to take home all the profits. Every year, Sociedad Apícola Maya produces some two thousand tons of honey, which is highly sought after in Europe, North America and Arabia, says Miguel Lara Sosa, who is now president of the organization founded by his father, Abdón Lara Burgos. The cooperative’s members, he says, have had the wherewithal to modernize their production techniques,
Mexico’s Partner sociedad apícola maya
Every year, Sociedad Apícola Maya produces some two thousand tons of honey, which is highly sought after in Europe, North America and Arabia.
graduate production to meet demand and comply with international quality and food safety standards. In 2009, the producers built a small but highly efficient bottling plant, which meets food export requirements set forth by the EU, where the vast majority of their customers are located. Almost immediately, the facility was certified by the National Food Health, Safety and Quality Service (SENASICA), which reports to Mexico’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA, according to its Spanish acronym). This is the beekeepers’ contribution; the rest of the work is done by their 100,000-odd bee colonies. Today, nine out of every 10 kilos of honey produced by Sociedad Apícola Maya are shipped to Germany, where the cooperative has three major buyers. Germany has been its most loyal customer since 1976, although a small percentage of production manages to make its way to the UK, the US and, more recently, Spain, in 300-kilo drums. Why do these countries prefer the honey from Yucatán to honey produced in other parts of the world? “Because it’s the tastiest,” replies Miguel Lara without a moment’s hesitation. In apiculture terms, “tasty” means an amber colored, aromatic honey with a good consistency. In that respect, Miguel Lara Sosa and his two thousand beekeeping colleagues are lucky to have been born in Yucatán, a land rich in nectar and pollen producing plants, some 40 endemic species in all, from vines to larger trees, according to certain biodiversity inventories. Thanks to this wonderful diversity of flora, Sociedad Apícola Maya is able to harvest honey four times a year. The first harvest is at the end of the year, obtained from the nectar of climbing plants like the Coral Vine (An-
togonon leptopus), which grows exclusively in the forests of Yucatán. The Toothleaf Goldeneye (Viguiera dentate), known as tajonal in Maya, accounts for the best part of the second harvest at the height of Mexico’s winter season, and the third, in April and May, comes from the Gymnopodium floribundum, a shrub known locally as ts’its’ilche. The fourth harvest, in May and July, comes from the flowers of larger trees like the Gumbo-limbo (Bursera simaruba) or chakaj, the Acacia gaumeri or box katsim and the False Tamarin (Lysiloma latisiluquum) or tsalam. Judging from the autochthonous names of these and other nectar producing plants that play such a vital role in the production of honey in this Mexican region, the Mayas were
indubitably the first to discover their potential. “Our honey has what it takes to satisfy the most discerning of palates and we do what we can to position it on the most demanding of markets,” says Lara Sosa. Honey is the main line of business of Sociedad Apícola Maya, although the cooperative also produces and sells derived products like beeswax, pollen, royal jelly, soaps and shampoos and candies enriched with propolis extract. Packed with vitamins, minerals and enzymes, honey has a myriad of applications, from soothing sore throats to chaffed skin. For the last 30 years, Sociedad Apícola Maya has been supplying world markets with a product of the finest quality. Whether you want to eat it or wallow in it is up to you.. n