Imports of low-grade Iranian 'honey' ravage Herat's beekeeping industry

By Emran

While beekeeping and honey production have increased in Herat this year, Iran has also increased the export of low-quality honey to the province. Low-grade Iranian honey is smuggled illegally and in some cases enters Afghanistan through customs. [Emran/Salaam Times]

HERAT -- Legal and illegal imports of low-quality, fake Iranian honey into Afghanistan are hindering Herat's beekeeping industry by decreasing demand for domestic products.

Some 50% of Herat's honey market is made up of honey from Iran, according to Herat's Beekeepers Association.

Fifty percent of domestic honey produced last year could not be sold because of the presence of artificial Iranian honey in the market, said Mohammad Arif Wasel, chairman of the association.

"Beekeepers suffered major financial losses and were discouraged from continuing beekeeping after 50% of their product was not sold," he said.

A seller hands a bottle of Afghan honey to a customer June 21 at his store in Herat city. [Emran/Salaam Times]

A seller hands a bottle of Afghan honey to a customer June 21 at his store in Herat city. [Emran/Salaam Times]

"Some beekeepers in Herat closed their farms because of the presence of low-quality Iranian honey and the lack of demand for domestic products, and they have migrated to neighbouring countries."

"Some farmers are still trying to sell their farms and leave the country," he added.

The presence of low-quality Iranian honey in the market has discouraged beekeepers and destroyed incentives for future investments, Wasel said.

"When domestic honey is not sold, beekeepers are forced to give up beekeeping and turn to other businesses," he added.

Low-quality, artificial Iranian honey smuggled into the country has badly damaged beekeepers' businesses, said Abdul Ghafar Sediqi, a honey seller in Herat city.

"Low-grade Iranian honey has affected quality domestic honey," he said.

"A kilogramme of Iranian honey is sold for 200 AFN ($2.30) in the market, while producing 1kg of pure domestic honey costs more than 700 AFN ($8.00)."

"Low-grade Iranian honey is available in stores in Herat city. It is made of powder, water and sugar and is completely artificial," he added. "We have suffered many losses because of low-quality, cheap Iranian honey."

Iran does not export its good honey to Afghanistan. It exports low-quality honey only to destroy the market and damage the beekeeping industry in Afghanistan, Sediqi said.

Health threat

Low-quality, sugar-filled "honey" from Iran is very risky for the public's health, say some doctors.

Low-quality honey causes diabetes due to its high sugar content, said Khalid Khpalwak, an internal medicine specialist in Herat city.

"Pure honey helps control diabetes and some other illnesses in humans, but importing low-quality honey is playing with human lives," he added.

"Diabetes is growing, especially among elders. One of the main reasons behind its prevalence is low-quality honey. The sale of low-quality honey that is full of sugar deceives consumers and is putting their lives at risk," he added.

Low-quality honey should be recalled so that it does not cause more diabetes and other diseases, Khpalwak said.

"Diabetes is not exactly curable, and patients suffering from it must take medication for their entire life," he added. "Using artificial and low-grade honey shortens life expectancy greatly."

Wais Gharanai, a resident of Herat city, said he used to buy Iranian honey because it was cheap but stopped doing so because of its high sugar content.

"I used to buy 1kg of honey for 200-300 AFN ($2.30-$3.40) in the past, but it had no taste," he said.

Iranian honey is made of water and sugar and harms your health, he added.

"I have been eating domestic honey for a while now," Gharanai added. "Herat-produced honey has good quality and tastes great too."


The influx of cheap Iranian "honey" comes as Herat has become self-sufficient in terms of honey production, officials say.

According to the Herat Department of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (DAIL), honey production has doubled in Herat this year compared to the last.

This year, over 150 tonnes of honey was produced in Herat, a major increase from last year's 80 tonnes, said Sayed Masoom Sadaat, director of the livestock unit at the department.

"Herat's honey production has made the province self-sufficient," he said. "It is enough for the consumption of neighbouring provinces, too."

"Iranian honey is not usable because of its low quality. It is harmful to human health," he added.

"The only goal of exporting low-quality Iranian honey to Herat is to destroy the young beekeeping industry in Afghanistan."

There is no need to import foreign honey in the western region, Sadaat said.

Beekeeping has grown to a great extent in Herat in recent years.

There are 800 small and large beekeeping farms active in Herat, employing more than 3,000 workers, half of whom are women.

The market is flooded with low-quality cheap Iranian honey during domestic honey harvesting seasons, said Khalil Ahmadi Bahmanish, a beekeeper in Herat city.

The abundance of Iranian honey in the market undercuts the sale of domestic honey, he said.

"This year, our sales have dropped by more than 70%."

"Low-quality Iranian honey is [exported to Afghanistan intentionally] to discourage domestic beekeepers from continuing their work," he added. "When domestic production is stopped, foreign honey will capture the market."

No individual or organisation supports domestic products. Therefore, demand for low-quality Iranian honey is high at the moment, Bahmanish said.

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Herat's beekeepers' claims and criticisms are well-founded. Not only Iranian but also Pakistani low-quality honey is sold here in Afghanistan. Acknowledging that the Afghan economy is weak, most of them buy low-cost goods but do not take into account the side effects. The other side of the issue is that foreign countries are mainly exporting low-quality honey to take over the market and weaken the Afghan investors as still, their main goal is to take over the market ... In fact, the Afghan-produced honey is often from the natural flowers because beekeepers take bees to natural places ... The authorities must cooperate with beekeepers and stop importing honey from foreign countries ... And also, Afghan farm owners must work on the packing and advertisements to attract the people and gain credibility. Also, they should consider the poorer sections of the society / provide them with fewer quality products required by their economic situation.


The main problem is within our people. They are looking for cheap goods, regardless of the quality of the product and the country from where it is imported. If our people really supported their domestic products, we would not have faced this situation, and our factories would not have failed one after another. In other countries, people are trying to use their own products to the highest extent but consuming foreign products and equipment is kind of honor for us. That’s why I say that as long as people don’t support their domestic products, the low-quality foreign goods will flow into the market.


There are three devils in the world; one is Israel, the other is Pakistan and the third is Iran. These three countries were created in the name of religion and did not look at other people as human beings. The dirtiest of all is Pakistan. Pakistan is cancer in the region where neither Muslims, Christians, nor Jews feel relief. Do you know how did they kill innocent Pashtuns? How did they sell them? How did they make them destroyed?


This is the fault of our Afghan traders; otherwise, at a time when there is a commodity here in Afghanistan, why should it be imported from other countries? The price of honey imported from Iranian markets will be lower, but the quality is also the lowest. Afghan honey and every other product made in Afghanistan are confident that its quality is many times better than others, and the profit goes to the pocket of one of our compatriots. So I think it's essential for the chamber of commerce to know that whatever we have inside should not be imported from other countries. Because we have what we have and importing it from other countries, the investors are forced to close their factories/shops, which harms the investors and makes their employees jobless. So the merchants do not betray it; they do not put the food of their people in the mouths of others. Let the profits go to an Afghan home, not Iranians, Pakistanis, Russians, Arabs ...