Consumers already have to pay a hefty premium for Manuka honey - but soon they may have to pay even more.
Wholesale prices have risen 15% to 30% over the past year depending on the grade of the honey, say buyers, and a UMF 15+ honey can now command prices in excess of $50 NZ (£27) per kilo.
The higher cost of the rare honey, which comes from bees that pollinate the Manuka trees found almost exclusively in the East Cape region of New Zealand, could push retail prices to new highs.
Bought for its alleged antibacterial and antiviral properties, Manuka honey is already one of the most expensive products on supermarket shelves. A 250g jar of Comvita UMF 15+ Manuka Honey currently costs £21.99 at Sainsbury’s and Waitrose.
Cocoa butter up 114%
With global cocoa production forecast to stand at 4 million tonnes for 2012/13, down 2% on 2011/12, and global cocoa grindings up 1.5%, the cocoa market is expected to suffer a supply deficit of 45,000 tonnes this season. As a result, prices are on an upward trajectory - butter is up 114% year-on-year and up 16.1% month-on-month, while bean prices are up by 4.7% year-on-year and 4.2% month-on-month.
Feed wheat prices remain elevated on a year-on-year basis, driven up by an expected 6% drop in global wheat production this year, but prices have eased in the past month. Also down is rye, falling 17% year-on-year and 6.6% month-on-month, as a result of the forecast 21% hike in EU rye production this season.
The latest cost hike is the result of rising demand and falling supplies. Demand from Asia, where the market is most developed, is particularly strong, and skincare companies are also buying more. On the supply side, tighter controls and better lab testing have limited the quantity of Manuka honey coming onto to the market in recent years.
Last year, heavy rains have made the shortages more acute. “There was a very poor harvest last year so everyone’s cupboards are empty,” said Simon Pothecary, Comvita’s European general manager.
This year’s harvest, which finished in February, is thought to have been better, but not spectacular. Very little fresh honey has come onto the market. suppliers hope this is not down to poor yields but beekeepers holding back supplies in the hope of prices rising further and the UMF increasing in storage.
“We’re hoping that beekeepers are sitting on quite a bit of honey and that there may therefore be some easing,” said Green Bay Harvest founder Jo Glass.