Argentine beekeepers no longer in clover

Tue Oct 7, 2008 8:05am EDT
 
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By Helen Popper

CHIVILCOY, Argentina (Reuters) - Beekeepers had it easy when cattle roamed freely across the flower-filled meadows of Argentina's Pampas plains. But a boom in soy farming has changed all that.

The legendry prairies have fast become one of the most efficient swathes of cropland on Earth, leaving little room for wild flowers and leading beekeepers in the world's No. 1 honey exporter to move their hives and even sow their own flowers.

"They say that wherever the cow goes, the bee follows ... They live in harmony and both benefit from flowers. But things have changed," said Patricio Crespo, a vet and beekeeper from the town of Chivilcoy, a typical Pampas town that lies some 100 miles from the capital, Buenos Aires.

"It's a shame and it's sad, not just for beekeepers," he added.

Fields of soybeans, corn and wheat have spread across the fertile plains in recent years due to soaring global demand for food and biofuels.

Some ranchers and dairy farmers have moved their herds to distant provinces where soybeans do not flourish, and more and more animals are being reared in feedlots, freeing up valuable arable land for crops wherever possible.

Chivilcoy has seen a sharp reduction in its grazing area, alarming the district's 300 beekeepers who are battling falling honey production -- a picture played out across the region as wild flowers become scarcer.

Flowers provide bees with the nectar and pollen they need to feed and make honey, and a variety of species keeps them supplied for many months.   Continued...

 
<p>Patricio Crespo, a beekeeper, works at an apiary farm in the town of Chivilcoy, some 100 miles (160 km) from Buenos Aires, September 22, 2008. Beekeepers had it easy when cattle roamed freely across the flower-filled meadows of Argentina's Pampas plains. But a boom in soy farming has changed all that. Picture taken September 22, 2008. REUTERS/Enrique Marcarian</p>