Honey buyers are in luck this year, with prices falling in Europe thanks to strong global supplies.
European wholesale honey prices were down 19.7% year on year last month [Mintec] due to “ample” Chinese supply and a boost in Argentinian exports.
“The price for Argentinian honey has fallen from its peak last year to possibly its lowest point - it is now half price,” says Thomas Heck, director at honey trader Sarant. “When prices were high 15 months ago, the US switched its supply to India, Vietnam and Thailand, which freed up a lot of volume in Argentina. The country also had a good crop last season and big carryover stocks.”
Falling prices for Argentinian honey have put pressure on producers in China - the biggest exporter to the EU - to reduce prices further to ensure a price advantage for their lower quality product. “In the UK, imports of honey from China have seen an increase year on year, up 11%, totalling almost 26,000 tonnes in 2015,” says Mintec analyst Liliana Minton.
The northern hemisphere season will soon be under way and while it is too early to tell what the supply situation will be, early indications suggest there could be some disruption to EU supplies from the “inconsistent weather”, says Heck.
However, low global prices mean there will be pressure on European beekeepers to adjust their prices to remain competitive, he adds. “In the mid term, we expect honey prices to remain fairly low.”
In the longer term, unsustainably low prices could result in beekeepers in Argentina and some other third countries stopping production, says Heck. Minton says there are reports some Argentinian farmers and co-ops are already reluctant to sell due to low prices. “Production in the region has also been affected by rains and flooding brought by El Niño in 2015/16,” she adds.