Now’s the time many beekeepers will be looking to sell their honey – small as many crops might be this year. So, it’s good to bring you commentary from three honey buyers/traders in this, the second ever Honey Market Chat, following on from our first updates in March.
It's positive that buyers are talking of slight increases in price, but we all know it’s a long way off where the producer wants, nay needs, it to be. The falling export market is an ongoing concern too. Nonetheless, knowledge is power, and so hopefully you can gain plenty from their advice.
Thanks to John, James and Logan for offering up their insights and supporting this column. Let it not be said they are not trying to communicate with their suppliers. And, if you are a honey buyer reading this, feel free to reach out to be included in the next Honey Market Chat, hopefully in September so as we can follow the quarterly theme.
Until then, whether selling or buying honey, best of luck and let’s do what we can now to have our hives in the best possible shape for a more productive season ahead.
Patrick Dawkins, editor.
Mānuka Orchard – Logan Bowyer – Owner
So far in 2023 sales through Mānuka Orchard are tracking better than at the same time last year, and that makes painting a (ever-changing) picture of key aspects of the markets easier. So here goes:
Positive trends - The average price offered for this season’s bush and multi-manuka honey is up 30% on last year. The stock from previous seasons is moving into blends as we try to make the most out of a low-production summer.
Honey grading and saleability - We try to put your honey in an A, B or C grade from test results, depending on how saleable it is. Just having full testing is not enough. With the knowledge of the results you need to grade the honey on saleability and thus price, or even the chance of a sale. Things to consider are: is the honey suitable for all world markets? Is the toughest buyer or highest paying buyer’s commercial specification met in the testing results? Can you improve your results by blending within your own stock, or do you require some honey to put your stock in a better position?
What honey types are currently selling? - Multi-manuka and monfloral Manuka below 100MGO sales are strong. Some native monoflorals, such as rewarewa, have been in strong demand this year. Why? If the results show low C4 or good DHA:MGO ratios then these honeys are beneficial to help B-grade honey become A-grade and fill the area of low supply volume in the current market, that being mānuka below 100MGO.
Current shifting trends - More buyers are requesting C4 results of <6, diastase >10 and DHA:MGO ratios above 3:1. Fully tested honey with results less than 3 months old with one, two or three of these attributes is achieving the best pricing and fastest sales. Some buyers are requesting AFB and glyphosate counts of nil. Yeast and mould counts are up on average, so the fermentation risk has increased for honey with higher moisture. The need for blending to improve the saleability of honey is increasing.
While NZ still has a lot of honey in stock, as it ages it is going to be harder for it to meet specification. The requirement for low-C4 and fresh mānuka with good DHA:MGO ratios will be required to enable the older honeys to meet sale specs.
A few thoughts to leave you with - Blending to ensure your honey is at the top of the saleability pile, when you don’t meet spec, is now the norm. The average time between a buyer contacting me and requiring the honey is <5 days. So don’t sit on your hands and wait until demand gets stronger before testing or starting the journey of fully understanding your honey’s grade/saleability.
For further advice, get in touch: Logan 027 667 7588 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Egmont Honey – James Annabell – Chief Executive
It’s been a terrible production season within our own hives and everyone who supplies us. That has had an impact on the non-mānuka and lower-grade mānuka honey pricing, which is good for beekeepers. We want to see beekeepers doing better, but for us in the middle it is a matter of balancing those needs of the beekeeper with the needs of the retailer, who are constantly pushing us in the other direction.
After a season of low supply it does create challenges in the market place. For instance, one of our international retailers for non-mānuka honey is putting price pressure on us because the beekeeper is only getting $4.50 there. You follow that $4.50 down the chain and ultimately they can offer it to the supermarket for cheaper than us, especially when you consider the costs of transport and export/import which we have.
For them, there is no loyalty to New Zealand honey or their own, they don’t really care about that. It is simply a commodity-type view for these retailers – it’s all purely honey and they want to know what price it can be supplied for. So, we have had to take hits on margin just to protect listings.
We do still have mānuka inventory in our sheds and across the country, but a terrible season will mean there will be demand to fill the sheds back up. Our packing plant is set to be busy filling orders and we are even advertising for night shift staff to keep the orders going out the door. So, the honey drums will need to be replaced.
The domestic market is as fragmented as ever and the race to the bottom is brutal, but for Egmont we have strong export markets and so are not as reliant on local sales and pricing.
In summary, a poor production season, our demand for honey is strong and so my advice for beekeepers is to reach out and have a yarn with us to see where things are at and if their honey will suit our needs now, or for the coming season.
Airborne Honey – John Smart – General Manager Sales
And just like that its June! We are six months into the year and have been inundated with beekeepers sending us samples, keeping our lab busier than ever.
Don’t get me wrong, we are very grateful for the opportunity to receive samples for analysis. By all account’s it has been a good season in the South Island with very good lines of honey being produced, particularly Clover and Vipers Bugloss.
Market conditions have changed from our March update, with good levels of honey available for purchase and declining export volume and value sales. The reason for this change is significantly reduced sales activity by New Zealand honey packers and potentially increased cost of living pressure affecting demand in export markets.
We are projecting export volumes for 2023 to be approximately 8000M/T and the total export value to be approximately $300m. Theses extrapolations are based on Jan-April data so a lot can change from here. As a result, the reduction in demand and value is making it hard to price honey, rest assured we still need to purchase a large volume of honey before the end of the year.
For Airborne, our sales growth is holding up so far in 2023. A lot of our trade is through supermarkets, which are more reliable and thus our sales are more predictable.