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COKEK, Turkey: Beekeepers Mustafa Alti and his son Fehmi were busy tending to their hives before forest fires ravaged a bucolic area of ​​Turkey that produces the world’s most prized pine honey.

Now the Altis and generations of other honey producers in Turkey’s Aegean Mugla Province are scrambling to find extra work and wonder how many decades it could take to get their old lives back on track.

Our livelihood comes from beekeeping, but when the forests burned down our source of income fell, said Fehmi, 47, next to his mountainside beehives in the fire-ravaged village of Cokek. . I do odd jobs, I cut trees, so we can manage.

Nearly 200,000 hectares of forests, more than five times the annual average, have been burned by fires across Turkey this year, turning the verdant coastlines popular with tourists to ashes.

The summer disaster and a series of deadly floods that accompanied it made the climate that was already weighing heavily on the minds of young voters a major problem two years before the next scheduled elections.

Signaling political change, the Turkish parliament this week ended a five-year wait and ratified the Paris Agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions that are responsible for global warming and abnormal weather events.

But the damage has already been done in Mugla, where 80 percent of Turkey’s pine honey is produced.

Turkey as a whole produces 92% of the world’s pine honey, which means that the reserves of dark and thick amber could soon run out in the world.

Turkey pine honey crops were already suffering from drought when forest fires struck, destroying the delicate balance between bees, trees and small insects at the heart of the production process.

Honey is made by bees after collecting the sweet secretions of the small Basra beetle (Marchalina hellenica), which lives on the sap of pine trees.

Fehmi hopes the beetles will adapt to young trees after the fires. But he also accepts that it will take at least five or ten years to recover our previous income.

His father Mustafa agrees, urging the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to expand woodlands and plant saplings.

There is no repairing a burnt down house. Can you mend the dead? No. But new trees could appear, a new generation, Mustafa said.

For now, however, beekeepers are counting their losses and determining what comes next.

Mugla Beekeepers Association president Veli Turk expects his region’s honey production to plunge to 95 percent this year. There is hardly any Marmaris honey left, he says.

This honey won’t come for 60 years, he predicted. It’s not just Turkey. This honey would go all over the world. It was a blessing. It really is a huge loss.

Beekeeper Yasar Karayigit, 45, is considering switching to another type of honey to keep his passion and his only source of income alive.

I love beekeeping, but to continue I’ll have to look for alternatives, Karayigit said, mentioning royal jelly (or bee milk) and sunflower honey, which comes at extra cost.

But if we love bees, we have to, said the father of three.

Ismail Atici, head of the Milas District Chamber of Agriculture in Mugla, said the price of pine honey had doubled from last year, threatening to make the popular breakfast unaffordable for many Turks.

He expects prices to continue rising and supplies to become increasingly scarce.

We will come to a point where even if you have the money, you will not be able to find these herbal remedies and this medicinal honey, Atici said.

It is going to be very difficult to find 100% pine honey, agreed beekeeper Karayigit. We have had so many losses.




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