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  • Writer's picturePatrick Dawkins

Quarterly Honey Market Chat - February '23

Producing and selling honey – it’s the backbone of almost every beekeeping business. Procuring honey – it’s essential to any honey packer’s business. Perhaps that’s why our stories on the state of the honey market are so well received by readers?

With all that in mind, at Apiarist’s Advocate we have decided to launch this Quarterly Honey Market Chat, with this the first instalment, March ‘23. Here you will find a space where both honey producers and buyers can communicate, with commentary from buyers, and potentially listings of honey from producers who wish to appeal to buyers.

I believe the disconnect between beekeepers and those who take the honey to the end market place is hamstringing the returns available to apiarists. While we don’t expect this space to be a silver-bullet solution to any of the honey market’s struggles, it should help beekeepers gain a better understanding of what forces are at play in the market place, where the best potential outlet for their honey is, and what they should be producing.

It should also help the packers explain their positions, as I think many beekeepers believe the packers are ‘creaming it’, without understanding the nature of the domestic and international honey trades.

Of course, nothing beats a reliable, long-term relationship between producer and packer with open dialogue, and that should be the goal of both parties. We just hope this column can fill any void where those don’t exist or add to people’s knowledge where they do.

We hope to be back in June with the next update. Until then, read on and support those advertisers/contributors who have made the effort to connect with the industry here. And if you are a honey buyer wanting to have your say on the situation, or a honey producer wanting to get some extra exposure for what you have to sell, get in touch!

Patrick Dawkins, editor.

Mānuka Orchard – Logan Bowyer – Owner

It’s undoubtedly a shocker of a honey production season for much of New Zealand. Bad weather and hardship for the beekeepers over the last few seasons has reduced this season's production in the North Island and here at Mānuka Orchard in the Bay of Plenty our extraction plant volumes are well down on last year so far, tracking at 10%.

A poor production season can only help those who do have honey to sell as the honey types in short supply have become more sought after/valuable as a result. It may take a few more months before we see the retail prices lift to reflect this supply constraint though.

We have active buyers, both domestic and international, coming to us seeking honey now and we have orders that we would like to fill for rewarewa, bush and fresh mānuka with 300MGO max prediction. Please reach out if you have any of these honeys.

If you have honey in storage, then it is good to understand how marketable your honey is. Testing and evaluating the results enables us to grade the likelihood of a sale. There is also the consideration of blending fresh with old, to keep the old stock saleable.

Our view is there will be a shortage in certain varieties for the next 12-24 months due to the low volume harvest this season, floods and pressures on beekeepers forcing them out of the industry. To navigate the next 12 months the NZ honey industry will need to maximise the potential of the smaller volumes we have in these low areas of supply. We have advice and ability in this area, if you would like to know more.

Egmont Honey – James Annabell – Chief Executive

Advocate readers will be well aware of the ambitious “100,000 Hive Project” which Egmont Honey launched over winter as our commitment to growing honey markets. The project has been well received by beekeepers and our conversations with them encouraging, so much so that we have commitments from honey producers to supply around 90% of the non-manuka honey we need for the current season.

That doesn’t mean Egmont Honey won’t be an active buyer from anyone we haven’t met with yet though. As we all know by now, it’s been a poor production season in many parts of the country – not least of all in our own Taranaki. Therefore, it is likely that we will once again be an active buyer of bush and clover/pasture honey, from both North and South islands.

I write this amidst a sales trip to Australia and the UK, as we look to sure up and grow relationships with retailers in these key markets. Aiding these efforts to take more New Zealand honey to the world is Egmont Honey’s recent sale to Nestle. The reach and backing provided by the World’s largest food company can only aid our market growth efforts, and thus relationships with more beekeepers will be required.

As for mānuka honey, well we are no island there and so, like most others, we are still holding stock. That could change in both short and medium/long term though. Short term, a poor North Island honey season could see mānuka scarcity approach faster than expected. Longer term – and I told an industry leaders meeting this recently – I am optimistic a mānuka turnaround will come, just look at where demand for bush honey was a few years ago, to it being much more sought after now.

As beekeepers, packers and marketers of honey we are well aware of the pressures that all aspects of our industry are facing. I genuinely sympathise with those who are doing it a bit tough at the moment. I can assure you we are doing all that we can to continue putting NZ honey on the global map. For example, we will have a booth at the largest natural product Expo in the USA next month, we will also have product sitting on the Garden of Life booth which is one of the largest natural health brands in the USA and is Nestle Health Science owned, maximising our exposure.

If you ever want to hear what we are up to or interested in supplying Egmont Honey pick up the phone and give us a yell.

Airborne Honey – John Smart – General Manager Sales

First of all, our thoughts go out to those beekeepers in the North that have been fighting wet weather for months only to also be caught up in the devastation brought on by Cyclone Gabrielle. Understanding the challenges faced in the North (with the potential of a reduced honey crop looking likely) creating a supply issue, offset by a strong season in the South Island, we have found honey prices have firmed. This will be reflected in Airborne’s offers to beekeepers at present – some good news for the producer there.

We felt it necessary to also caution beekeepers this year about the temptation to hold on to honey in the search for increased demand. To support this caution, we wanted to give you an overview on our thoughts on the demand for honey.

Reviewing NZ supermarket data, it has shown that Kiwis have remained basically static over the last twelve months regarding KGs purchased. Bearing in mind the inflationary pressures and the fact that households are projecting to have less discretionary spend over 2023, we are projecting that this demand will, at best, remain static.

Reviewing NZ’s export volumes, it is worth noting the downward trend continued in 2022 (1,630 M/T less than 2021) on top of a downward trend in 2021 (2,217 M/T less than 2020). Early indications for exports are that Jan 2023 this year has started another 91.5 M/T down compared with Jan 22.

Less exports means less demand from the buyers on shore, so those who hold on too long run the risk of ‘missing the boat’ in this era of honey stockpiles. As always, it’s a balancing act for producer and packer!

For Airborne, our sales numbers are holding up so far in 2023. A lot of our trade is through supermarkets, which are more reliable and thus our sales more constant.

With this in mind, New Zealand’s beekeepers can rely on Airborne to be a continual purchaser of their honey as we feed a hungry NZ and international market with your honey. We have long-term, healthy relationships with producers, but due to our businesses’ growth, we are always looking to speak with more beekeepers. So, whoever you are and wherever you are based, give us a call and let’s talk honey.

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