SWEET SITUATION: Demand for honey growsNorth Dakota producers look to cash in on high honey prices
Honey prices are at historic levels as consumer demand continues to grow for the natural sweetener. Retail prices for honey have never been higher and ripples in the worldwide supply chain have those in the industry buzzing.
Honey prices are at historic levels as consumer demand continues to grow for the natural sweetener.
Retail prices for honey have never been higher and ripples in the worldwide supply chain have those in the industry buzzing.
“Honey is gaining in popularity,” said Emily Manelius of the Firestone, Colo.-based National Honey Board. “People are gravitating towards healthy products. Honey is a natural product and it is so versatile. Not only is it a sweetener, it is also a natural beauty aide, cough suppressant and is used in home remedies.”
Total U.S. honey consumption rose to 410 million pounds in 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Of that total, 61 percent of honey consumed in the U.S. was imported.
Last month, the average retail price for a pound of honey was $5.22, up from $3.78 during the same month in 2005, according to the National Honey Board.
The sweet situation for U.S. producers leaves North Dakota beekeepers in an enviable position.
North Dakota has led the nation in honey production in each of the last seven years. The state produced 46.4 million pounds of honey valued at $70 million in 2010 — nearly double the honey produced last year in California, the nation’s second-largest producer.
“Last year was an excellent year,” said Kathy Monda of Monda Honey in East Grand Forks. “It was probably the most honey we’ve ever produced and the most bees we’ve ever had. If we have good weather, we’ll have good production again this year.”
The favorable market outlook comes as good news to the Monda operation, which lost more than 60 percent of its 4,500 bee colonies to sickness or a virus while it was out of state during the winter and has had to purchase bees this spring to replenish its numbers.
“This is probably the highest prices have ever been and the highest or close to the highest we’ve ever gotten for honey,” Monda said.
Despite the strong honey market, local producers are careful not to get too excited.
Beekeepers often get much less for honey than retail prices. Some like Monda are part of cooperatives.
Local producers are also crossing their fingers as they keep a watchful eye on the weather.
“When it’s too wet, the flowers won’t bloom,” Monda said. “You need the right conditions to make a crop. Everything will be fine as long as it warms up into the 60s and 70s, things dry up and the crops do well.”
More sun and warm temperatures would help flowers begin to bloom and farmers to get their crops in the ground.
Nice summer temperatures would also give bees a longer window to pollinate crops and make honey. Bees are most active when temperatures rise above 60 degrees, but rain and high winds impact how far they venture from their hives.
How exactly does a state with one of the coldest climates in the nation manage to outperform states such as California and Florida?
Terry Gregoire of Devils Lake, the northeast director of the North Dakota Beekeepers Association, said North Dakota’s summer climate, large amounts of agricultural land and blossoms of clover, alfalfa and crops like sunflower, canola and mustard are conducive to beekeeping.
“North Dakota has an abundance of cropland and rangeland,” Gregoire said. “Generally, we have nice summer temperatures and not a lot of rainfall. It tends to be a place where beekeepers from across the country can bring their bees.”
Unlike livestock and traditional farmers, beekeepers tend to be more migratory. Many beekeepers from warmer climates actually prefer to bring their bees to North Dakota for the summer where the temperatures aren’t as sizzling (extremely hot temperatures can stifle production) and there are better blossoms.
Many North Dakota and Minnesota beekeepers also move their bees to warmer climates in the winter instead of paying to protect them from the cold.
Monda brings her bee colonies, which spend the summer spread out between northeastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota, to California and Oklahoma during the colder months.
Gregoire expects to see out-of-state beekeepers beginning to bring their colonies back to North Dakota by June, keeping the state’s economy buzzing.
“Imports now make up the bulk of the honey that is sold in the United States,” Gregoire said. “The rest of the world’s honey production probably has as much of an impact on prices as domestic production.”
Schuster reports on business. Reach Schuster at (701) 780-1107; (800) 477-6572, ext. 107; or send email to email@example.com. Follow Schuster on Twitter at @RyanSchuster.