The Wathba Honey Festival, one of the festivals associated with the Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Agricultural Excellence Award in its second edition, is taking place until 8 February at the Award Pavilion at the Sheikh Zayed Festival in Al Wathba, Abu Dhabi.

The festival aims to support local beekeepers and honey producers, enhance their skills and keep them abreast of the latest innovations, modern technologies and best practices in beekeeping and honey production. In addition, the festival aims to promote the products of Emirati beekeepers and acquaint the public with the benefits of Emirati honey and its unique characteristics. More than 60 beekeepers and companies involved in beekeeping and honey production will take part in the event, displaying their honey, bee products and modern beekeeping equipment.

The festival will include workshops, seminars on bee-related topics and live shows related to beekeeping and honey production in the UAE, with the aim of promoting this vital sector and encouraging members of the community to work and invest in this field. Beekeeping and honey production are integral aspects of sustainable agricultural development that support the UAE's food security system, in addition to the environmental importance of beekeeping in contributing to the pollination process associated with the reproduction of plants and trees.

The festival features six competitions for beekeepers and local honey producers to encourage competition and enhance the already high quality of Emirati honey products. The categories include the best Sidr liquid honey, the best Samar liquid honey, the best crystallised honey, the best Sidr honeycomb and the best Sidr honeycomb for wild bees. The first three winners in each category will receive substantial cash prizes, estimated at around AED270,000, with additional non-cash prizes and shields for the fourth and fifth place winners in each competition.

The Abu Dhabi Quality and Conformity Council (ADQCC), in collaboration with ADAFSA, will participate in the evaluation of the competitions. ADQCC will provide laboratory testing services for honey samples submitted by local producers to verify the quality of honey and assist the jury in selecting high quality honey.

Her Excellency Dr Mariam Hareb Al Suwaidi, Chairman of the Supreme Committee of the Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Agricultural Excellence Award and Deputy Director General of the Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority for Operational Affairs emphasised the importance of honey festivals in Abu Dhabi. Her Excellency highlighted them as important platforms that provide numerous opportunities to share expertise and successful experiences in the field of local honey production.

These events serve to showcase the latest methods to improve the quality of honey and promote different types of beekeeping products in the UAE, thereby contributing to their economic viability.

Her Excellency explained that the Al Wathba Honey Festival is an important promotional and marketing platform for Emirati honey, which is considered one of the finest in the world, especially Samar, Sidr, Ghaf and Mangroves honey, where the UAE has many natural habitats for beekeeping and harvesting all types of honey. The festival also facilitates commercial exchanges between Emirati producers and local and international traders, in line with the overall objectives of the Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Agricultural Excellence Award.

Her Excellency highlighted that the festival, held for the first time as part of the Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Agricultural Excellence Award, will underscore ADAFSA efforts in sustaining the beekeeping sector and honey production. This includes the production of queens of the Emirati honeybee breed within the activities of the project aimed at developing and improving honeybee breeds in the country. The Emirati honeybee breed stands out for its ability to withstand the country's conditions during the summer, produce high-quality honey, and tolerate infection with the Varroa parasite.

Up until the end of 2023, eight generations of this breed were produced, totalling approximately 13,000 queens. About 11,000 queens were distributed to beekeepers in the country to support the sustainability of their projects. Preparations are underway to breed the ninth generation in 2024, with a total of 5,300 queens.

Her Excellency added that the festival will feature displays of various types of honey that characterise the UAE, creating a significant shopping platform for visitors. Participants will have the opportunity to purchase a variety of local honeys with distinctive characteristics and high quality at competitive prices.

His Excellency Abdullah Al Muaini, Executive Director of the Central Laboratory Sector at ADQCC, expressed his satisfaction with the laboratories' involvement in Al Wathba Honey Festival and the productive collaboration with ADAFSA. His Excellency highlighted that ADQCC is dedicated to delivering distinguished inspection services to ensure the quality of agricultural and food products in Abu Dhabi. The council's participation in the festival is a crucial step in fortifying the local agricultural sector, supporting local producers, and providing services that contribute to assuring the quality and inspection of the offered honey. This adherence to high standards enhances the reputation of Emirati honey and increases its value in both local and international markets.

His Excellency added that ADQCC is actively involved in the development and implementation of policies, standards and systems necessary to ensure quality, promote conformity and protect consumer rights in the emirate. This involvement underlines its commitment to supporting all sectors of the economy in Abu Dhabi, including the agricultural sector, with the aim of strengthening local producers and improving quality and conformity across the agricultural and food industries.