KARADZICA, Republic of North Macedonia – Goce Cakarov’s 50 beehives are nestled among the verdant meadows of Mount Jakupica in the Republic of North Macedonia, an isolated, pollution-free zone that lends itself to producing delicious honey.
For the last decade, Cakarov has been practicing this form of high-altitude apiculture from the mountain lodge he manages, known as Karadzica. It is perched some 1,450 meters (4,757 feet) above sea level and is a good 40 kilometers (29 miles) from the nearest industrial or residential area.
The hives are surrounded by lush forest and wildflowers and this, combined with the pure mountain air, means his bees produce a high-quality grade of organic honey, although he does not have the official certificate to prove that just yet.
Once ready for harvest, Cakarov dons his beekeeping suit and calms the bees with smoke. With his hands exposed, he pulls the honey-clogged frames from the hive, gently shaking or brushing the bees aside.
Then, with the frames collected, he and his colleagues remove the capped honey from the outside of the comb before placing them in an extractor, a machine that spins the frames until all the honey is released.
According to Cakarov, a Macedonian family in possession of 100 beehives can produce around 1,500 kilograms of honey annually.
Cakarov sells his own high-quality mountain meadow honey for a minimal price of $9.50 per 0.7L, which means his annual takings surpass $13,300 or 20 percent more than the average Macedonian worker.
Beekeeping is a growing business in North Macedonia and is becoming an important feature of the modern economy.
According to the president of RNM’s Beekeeping Federation, Jane Markov, Macedonians of all walks of life, young and old, individuals and families, are taking a dip in the honey industry.
Markov added that the government subsides 600 denars (almost $11) per hive that survives the winter, while organic keepers can expect a subsidy of 800 denars.
The country’s Ministry of Agriculture said more than 7,000 Macedonian families work in apiculture and that, according to estimates, there were more than 240,000 beehives in the country at the end of 2018.
One beehive can yield between 18-35kg of honey a year, depending on the weather.
In 1992, the country recorded a honey production tally of 1,600 tons.
Nowadays, due to changes in climate and a boost in pesticide use, honey production has slumped.
It is estimated that North Macedonia produced around 400 tons last year.