Beekeepers in Campeche claim that unlawful land-use practices by Mennonite farmers are a threat to their livelihood.
Some 1,500 beekeepers in Hopelchén, which is also home to a large Mennonite community, say deforestation by the latter threatens thousands of families that depend on beekeeping and honey exports.
Campeche is the third largest honey producing state in Mexico, but its exports to Europe and Asia have been decreasing for the last six years, and the quality of their product has “noticeably deteriorated,” say beekeepers.
Each one owns between 100 and 300 hives that produce up to 20 tonnes of honey per season. The state’s annual honey production is estimated to be as much as 7,000 tonnes.
About 18,000 families depend on beekeeping and all have been affected by deforestation, say advocacy groups representing the indigenous towns in Hopelchén. They claim that the damage caused by the farming activities of the Mennonites goes beyond the loss of wooded lands: bees and local water supplies are said to have been contaminated with agrochemicals.
Rural Development Secretary Armando Toledo Jamit said last month that efforts were under way to regulate the use of insecticides and herbicides because of their effects on bees. Thousands of bees have died, on top of which the honey is being rejected in international markets due to the presence of chemical elements.
A state farmers’ leader said it was important to bear in mind that the Mennonites had come to the state to work, but they in turn must act responsibly.
In 2009, the federal environmental agency Profepa filed criminal complaints with the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) against 18 Mennonite farmers and issued fines totalling almost 2.8 million pesos (US $156,000) for damages caused to land in Hopelchén.