Horror season to lift honey prices
SHOPPERS will be stung by higher honey prices as supply tightens and beekeepers struggle to keep their hives alive during what could be the worst season on record.
Australian honey output during the upcoming summer production period is expected to be as much as 30 per cent down on average.
It comes as drought continues to kill pollen-producing trees in beekeeping regions across northern NSW and southern Queensland.
Tasmania’s season has been little short of a disaster, with failed leatherwood flowering across large parts of the production area and bushfires impacting southern beekeepers.
Hive and Wellness, Australia’s biggest honey manufacturer and owner of the Capilano brand, says it expects supply to be as much as 3000 tonnes below an average of 10,000 tonnes a year as 98 per cent of its apiarists report being hit by drought.
Chief operating officer Ben McKee said increased competition for a smaller honey pool meant Hive and Wellness was paying beekeepers up to $6/kg.
That is as much as a dollar more than usual and the extra cost will have an impact on prices in supermarkets.
“Our beekeepers have got to get better honey prices,” Mr McKee said.
“We’re the middle guy, so that is going to flow through to the consumers.”
Capilano is responsible for about 70 per cent of Australia’s honey production and it relies on beekeepers across the country.
Mr McKee says the company keeps about three to six months worth of stock in reserve in order to avoid a repeat of the 2014 honey production shortage that left shelves vacant across the nation.
“But we’re working off inventory levels that are getting lower and lower that are being impacted by years of severe drought,” he said.
“This year is bad, but it also comes on top of another couple of bad years.”
Drought conditions are so severe in some areas that apiarists are shipping their bees cross-country.
“These producers are not trying to chase conditions to make honey, they’re moving bees from as far as Queensland to Victoria, chasing nectar and pollen just to keep them alive,” Mr Mckee said.
Unlike livestock-focused farm industries, beekeepers won’t get cash from selling off their animals as pastures dry out, meaning expensive supplementary feeding with syrups and pollen is the only option if they want to stay in the game.
There’s also the increased risk of bushfires, which Mr McKee said is deterring many from moving hives to state forests and national parks to some of the more productive coastal areas.
Mr McKee said beekeepers would continue to leave the industry. “Every drought we lose beekeepers. It just becomes too hard,” he said.