Hungarian beekeepers find a haven for bees in Kyrgyzstan

Fulmer's apiary and camp in Kyrgyzstan. Photo from Fulmer's Facebook page.

The purest honey in the world is made in the remote mountains of Central Asia by Hungarian beekeepers. That is how the Hungarian company Fulmer, specializing in the production and packaging of honey, markets its Amirkaal Honey sourced from the Toktogul region of Kyrgyzstan. This particular location was selected after the company representatives visited the country, sourced honey from different provinces, and took it back to Hungary for testing. Describing the Toktogul region, Ferenc Takács from Fulmer says: “This is a heaven for bees because it is a heaven for flowers.”

Here is the YouTube video about Fulmer's Amirkaal honey.

In 2022, Fulmer set up an apiary in one of the most remote areas in north-western Kyrgyzstan.  The company’s camp is hundreds of kilometers away from the nearest settlement. Fulmer’s operation in Kyrgyzstan may be new, but the company has over 90 years of beekeeping experience in its home country of Hungary. Ferenc’s grandfather György Fulmer established his first apiary in 1929 in Somogy County, located in southwestern Hungary. The beekeeping craft stayed in the family, and Ferenc expanded the business, turning Fulmer into the country’s largest honey packaging company in the 1990s. The company is now co-run by the fourth generation, Ferenc’s sons Boti and Peti.

Here is a YouTube video about the history of Fulmer.

Fulmer’s beekeeping pedigree is matched by Kyrgyzstan’s honey production history. Kyrgyz honey has won numerous accolades and international competitions over the years. In the twentieth century, when Kyrgyzstan was part of the Soviet Union, the country was the third largest producer of honey in the bloc, behind only Russia and Ukraine. At that time, Kyrgyzstan had 500,000 bee colonies and produced 12,000 tons of honey annually.

After Kyrgyzstan became independent in 1991, the number of bee colonies decreased to below 100,000, and the annual output dropped to a modest 2,000 tons. The revival of the beekeeping industry in Kyrgyzstan is partially due to high demand outside of the country, thanks to the continuous success in Apimondia, the largest international beekeepers’ congress, where Kyrgyz honey often receives the grand-prix prize as the highest quality in the world. The top five importers of Kyrgyz honey are the UAE, Japan, Kuwait, the US, and Saudi Arabia.

The taste and flavor of honey in Kyrgyzstan depend on the flowers and herbs present near the bee colonies. Atbashy, Toktogul, Suusamyr, and Issyk Kol are popular regions for beekeeping. Honey from the Atbashy region in northeastern Kyrgyzstan has received four golden prizes at Apimondia over the last decade. It is a white cream honey sourced from a single plant, esparcet. Atbashy honey can be consumed by people who have diabetes and are allergic to other types of honey.

Toktogul region, where Fulmer sources its honey, produces the most fragrant honey in the country due to the strong aromas of summer flowers and herbs in the region, including barberry, lavender, raspberry, thyme, and sage. Toktogul honey has higher-than-average nutritional and therapeutic properties due to the diverse melliferous flora and the high number of medicinal plants present in the region.

It was only a matter of time before foreign beekeepers capitalized on the unique environment Kyrgyzstan offers for bees and honey production. Fulmer was the first. “We did not want to do it the easy way — we wanted to do it the right way,” says Boti, describing the decision to set up the apiary in Kyrgyzstan. He adds that the Toktogul region is “the only place where you can create such honey.” Fulmer’s approach is to produce honey in the most ancient and natural way possible, hence the remote location of their operation. Ferenc and his sons built the beehives from the tree hollows because that is where bees usually live in nature. Peti notes that the company applies “fully ecological apiary technologies, which requires a lot of effort.”

Ferenc’s ambitious goal “to give people the very best of honey” brought him to Central Asia, thousands of kilometers away from home. In doing so, it also brought many eyes to the region with its vast beekeeping potential.

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