U.S. Honey Crops and Markets
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - December 2013
In the northern half of the country beekeepers were finishing their fall feeding and medicating before closing up colonies for the winter. As usual, many commercial beekeepers had already moved their colonies to the South or California for overwintering and early buildup. Many of these colonies will later be moved to almond pollination or will be split on location. These splits will be sold to other beekeepers or eventually returned to northern states for honey flows.
Southern beekeepers are monitoring their beeyards and feeding where necessary. In some past years, reports of early colony mortality were common, but that has not been the case so far this fall. However, with very poor honey crops in many locations, reports of colony starvation are expected to be common before next spring. Many beekeepers began feeding their colonies when late summer or early fall hive examinations revealed very short colony stores in a number of cases.
With another short crop honey crop predicted for this year, honey prices and demand are expected to remain high. A number of beekeepers have told us that they expect to be sold out by early 2014 if not before.
NORTHEAST—After the October and November frosts and the onset of colder weather, most beeyard work has ceased. A few beekeepers were still feeding, but bees have gone into winter clusters, so are not actively feeding. Many New York beekeepers felt their bees had sufficient stores, but it some states with poor summer and fall honey crops, beekeepers will need to watch colonies and feed where necessary with sugar patties, candy boards or dry sugar until warmer weather returns next spring. In some locations quite a bit of goldenrod honey was made, but other beekeepers said cool, wet conditions shut down the fall flow early.
As we have indicated in previous months, honey crop reports have been mixed, but many beekeepers blamed erratic weather or weak colonies for poor yields this season. Beekeepers are having no trouble selling their current honey crop and many said that they would be sold out by beginning of the New Year if not before. Demand for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels remains excellent.
MIDEAST—Beekeepers have completed most of their feeding and mite treatments as colonies go into winter clusters. On warmer days some beekeepers were still feeding, but most beeyard work was done. Beekeepers in short crop locations are worried about colonies having sufficient stores to make it through the winter. Some reporters said that they planned on checking colonies in February and resuming feeding where necessary with sugar patties, candy boards or dry sugar. Then, as warmer weather returns, they will switch to feeding syrup.
Honey crops were disappointing again due to erratic weather varying between wet and cool to hot and dry. Nevertheless, some beekeepers were lucky enough to live in locations that made fair to good crops from clover, alfalfa, sumac and sourwood. Beekeepers have been selling their 2013 honey crops and have had little trouble since demand is strong. Most honey in the Mideast is sold at the retail level. Supplies are expected to be exhausted by the holidays or shortly thereafter.
SOUTHEAST—Seasonal scattered rainfall continued in this area. Temperatures were cooling, but Florida weather was still warm for the most part. Fall flower flows from sources like goldenrod had come to a close. Beekeepers were finishing their mite treatments and beetle trapping. Colonies had sufficient stores for the most part and were in good shape going into the winter season. The exceptions were where colonies were weakened due to losing their queen for a period of time. Honey crops were variable, but the big honey-producing state of Florida had a better crop than last season, despite some early season setbacks due to poor weather. Florida Brazilian pepper and melaleuca flows were done. Some beekeepers made surplus honey to extract, but many left these added stores on their hives for overwintering.
Beekeepers continue to report excellent wholesale and retail honey sales. Most large wholesale lots have been sold by now. However, beekeepers continue to sell local honey to the retail trade and sales are expected to continue to be strong through the holiday season.
SOUTHWEST—The last of the goldenrod and asters were finishing their bloom as beekeepers prepared for the winter season. Most colonies had sufficient stores despite poor honey flows in parts of this area. Northern beekeepers are also starting to move back to their winter locations in the Southwest where they will build up on early pollen and nectar in preparation for either the almond pollination season or making splits for later honey production in the northern states. Needed rains have been falling in some locations to help replenish ground moisture, which had been getting low.
Beekeepers don’t anticipate having any trouble selling their crops. In fact, many large lots of honey have already been sold. Beekeepers are also selling a lot of honey at the retail level at farmers’ markets and local festivals.
EAST CENTRAL—With the season drawing to a close, beekeepers were taking stock of their honey surplus, as well as the condition of their bees. Most honey crop averages were down, but there were exceptions in every state where beekeepers beat the odds and produced excellent honey crops. Beekeepers had finished their extracting and were busy either selling their honey in bulk or via the local retail trade. Sales at both the wholesale and retail levels remain brisk due to the continued shortage of honey, as well as the excellent demand for the product. Packers are trying to rebuild their inventories for the fast approaching holiday season. Offering prices for both white and ambers grades of honey remain above the $2.00 per pound level.
Colonies of bees are entering the winter with average to strong bee populations. Winter stores are fair, but a number of our reporters felt that they would need to feed some of their colonies to bring them through until spring. Commercial beekeepers were moving colonies to the South or California for the winter.
WEST CENTRAL—As in the East Central area, a few locations produced good honey crops, but they were in the minority. Most reporters are estimating that they produced about 50 to 80% of a normal honey crop. Erratic weather varying from cool and rainy early in the season to extremely hot and dry during the later spring and summer is blamed. Estimating crops in the big honey production states of North and South Dakota has been extremely tough this year since they were so variable, depending on the weather. In some locations the weather turned hot and dry, preventing normal production of clover and alfalfa. Instead, beekeepers had to depend on canola, buckwheat sunflowers, soybeans and other sources. Consequently, this year’s honey color is also a little darker than normal, which has been the case over much of the Midwest this season. On the other hand, other beekeepers were lucky enough to receive good weather at the right time and produced good to excellent clover and alfalfa flows.
Another short crop in this area has caused prices at both the wholesale and retail levels to increase. Most extracting was done and beekeepers were preparing to move their colonies to the South or California for the winter. A few will continue to overwinter indoors in climate controlled buildings and then will move these colonies directly to the almond groves about February 1st. Colonies are in fair to good condition going into winter. Some will need feeding now or in late winter in order to make it through until spring.
INTERMOUNTAIN—Honey production estimates continue to be equal to or better than 2012 over the most area states. Drought remained a big stumbling block to widespread good honey crops again this season, but a number of beekeepers in irrigated locations or where rainfall was better were able to secure fair to good honey crops. Beekeepers had finished their extracting and were either moving colonies to winter yard locations within their states or to southern or California locations for early 2014 almond pollination. Some colonies were being fed, especially in locations significantly affected by drought.
Beekeepers able to secure better honey crops this year are also enjoying better prices at both the wholesale and retail levels. Most locally produced honey will be sold out by the New Year.
WEST—Thousands of colonies began streaming into California for winter buildup and later almond pollination. Many colonies already in the state were being fed syrup and pollen supplements to keep bee populations up. Forcing colonies to be booming by early February is not easy and beekeepers must keep a constant vigil on holding yards to be sure they are not stressed by lack of food, disease or mites. Almond pollination contracts already locked in are higher than last season. However, pricing for later contacts may increase or decrease, depending on the availability of colonies.
As we indicated last month, honey crops over much of California will again be down by as much as 50% of normal. Seasonal rains and early snows are now returning to the state. Beekeepers in Oregon and Washington were able to secure better honey crops since rainfall came in time to help honey plant growth from alfalfa, clover, assorted berries, numerous wildflowers and row crops.
Honey prices and demand at both the wholesale and retail levels continue to be very good.
Although spring weather has been colder than usual, the buildup of colonies is exceptionally good in most of Argentina, especially in areas where timely rains have provided adequate ground moisture. Unfortunately, the number of commercial beekeepers has dropped significantly and the availability of bee forage is limited. Therefore, even though prospects for the future crop are better than last year, they are still down from the times before pastures were greatly reduced in favor of row crops. Late spring and early summer rains will have a major impact on what appears to be the best season of the last five years.
Drought affecting central provinces of Argentina (like Córdoba and Santa Fe) have prompted farmers to cut back on their sunflower crops. The acreage this year will be significantly reduced. It is important to bear in mind that sunflower is maybe the only commercial crop that has kept many beekeeping businesses viable in these provinces. Although honey from sunflower is not in the whiter grades, for many beekeepers it is the only honey they can get in areas where intensive agriculture has become prevalent.
Unlike the three previous years, this spring many beekeepers were again able to feed their hives liberally with sugar syrup. The price of granulated sugar returned to its historic average of 50 cents per kilogram, thus making stimulative feeding required during spring more affordable. Last year granulated sugar cost one dollar per kilogram.
Little if any honey remains unsold by beekeepers. For this reason the current high price offered by exporters cannot be taken advantage of by honey producers who sold their inventories early this year. Few recent transactions were made at USD1.90 per kilogram. Uncertainty at the exchange rate market is growing steadily after the gap between the US dollar on the black market when compared to the artificial parity set by the Central Bank of Argentina reached a record of 72% between the two quotations. Mid-term legislative elections took place in Argentina on October 27 and the government was defeated drastically. This outcome means that 50% of the Chamber of Representatives will be renewed, as well as one-third of the Senators. Budget cuts are expected that will put pressure at the exchange rate market.
During January-September of 2013, over 54,951 metric tons of honey were exported. The number one destination accounting for almost 65% of the volume is the USA with 35,800 MT sold at an average price of USD3,186 per MT. The second distant import is Germany with just 5,900 MT, representing 10.50% of Argentine shipments. Interestingly, Canada holds the number five position in the ranking with 1,892 MT (3.5%).