Hor­ror sea­son to lift honey prices

Mercury (Hobart) - - BUSINESS - ALEX DRUCE

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.