• Patrick Dawkins

Clover Honey Prices on the Rise

Clover and light-coloured honey producers will be buoyed by positive signs coming out of several major honey buyers around prices being offered for the coming season.

After several seasons of declining honey prices, since the Ministry for Primary Industries introduced their export manuka honey definitions in 2018 which shook up the New Zealand honey market, beekeepers are now looking at an increase in per-kg prices offered for honeys in the colour range of 0 to 55 on the Pfund grade in season 2021/22.

In a bid to source honey, Midlands Apiaries in Ashburton have offered beekeepers supply agreements stipulating per-kg prices ranging from $6.40 for the lightest coloured clover honey, to $5.20 for Pfund 46-55.

While the Canterbury beekeeping company was not willing to make comment on the honey market, it is understood the increased demand is driven by a large supply agreement with an offshore packer into the Asian market.

Clover honey prices are on the rise and Canterbury packer Airborne Honey says they expect to be able to at least match the contract price Midlands Apiaries are offering.

Fellow Canterbury honey buyers, Airborne Honey are confident they will be able to out perform the prices being offered by the Midlands contracts with their spot prices offered to beekeepers throughout the season.

“If Midlands had put out contracts at this same time last year, at the price they offered beekeepers at the beginning of the season, their beekeeper prices would have stayed permanently low all year,” says John Smart, Airborne Honey general manager sales.

“Whereas, if you look at the Midlands price, it rose through the year in response to international honey prices and competition from Airborne as well as other honey packers. My expectation is, the same situation will happen in 2022.”

While the Airborne honey sales GM says the move by Midlands is “awesome” as it will help to build a more diverse New Zealand honey industry, he hopes beekeepers remember the effect international honey prices have on contract packers who are at risk of losing 100 percent of the business if the brand they are packing for chooses to source lower priced honey from other honey producing countries.

Because Airborne Honey has a long established and recognised brand in many countries and direct vendor relationships with retailers worldwide, they can more easily move prices in response to the market, Smart says.

“Sales volumes may change, but losing the business is less likely.”

Internationally, New Zealand often competes with Canada and South America in the light-coloured honey market.

“You could find that in 2023, that contract goes somewhere else in the world. There is always that risk. I am not saying that is going to happen, but there is that chance. Whereas in Airborne’s situation, you will see a much better reflection of the market supply and demand cycle. Airborne won’t go away for a year,” Smart says.

“In the last 11 years we have ridden the market, all the way from $5 to $14 and back down to $3, now we are on the way back up with $7 likely in 2022 for good quality clover. We continue to buy on a continuous basis. That is the advantage of supporting a brand that has retail outlets and year round demand with a long term vested interest in the New Zealand honey industry.”

White clover is flowering in much of New Zealand and this season beekeepers can expect a higher price for their honey crop from the dominant pasture legume, and lighter coloured honey in general.

Another honey buyer believes that the drop in the price of clover honey since 2018, both offered to New Zealand producers and then the resulting price point for consumers, is helping gain back markets.

“Demand for clover has gone up, certainly. That was sparked by the drop in price, so within the last 12 months there has been an increase in demand for clover honey coming from Asia,” says David McMillan, managing director of CDHJ Ltd., based in Mosgiel, Otago.

Japan’s strict rules around glyphosate residues has also played into New Zealand’s hands, with other honey producing nations struggling to meet the limits, the CDHJ managing director says.

While the now increasing prices being offered to Kiwi beekeepers is encouraging, going forward getting the balance right will be crucial to maintaining markets, McMillan believes.

“Yes, the price is going up, but if it goes too high again that demand will start to drop off again. It is a matter of making sure things remain balanced, now that the clover market is starting to re-establish. The high prices just destroyed the market in the past.”

With the current $6 or $7 a kg a long way off the $14 price point of the past, beekeepers are unlikely to be concerned at pricing themselves out of clover honey markets just yet.

“The higher prices are for the lighter coloured honeys. Once you get to the darker clovers, you don’t get the same increase,” McMillan confirms, a view that aligns with Midlands’ contract rates.

“It looks like a honey worth producing again though.”


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