U.S. Honey Crops and Markets
US Crop and Market – January 2023
Most of our correspondents report fair to good conditions for colonies going into winter. While drought persisted out west through much of the year, late-season rainfall in some states allowed many of those colonies to recover.
The elephant in the room is Hurricane Ian. Tens of thousands (possibly hundreds of thousands) of colonies were lost, with many more in danger of starvation in late fall. Despite heroic rescue efforts, it remains to be seen what effect the disaster will have on the supply of bees for February’s almond pollination in California.
Pennsylvania colonies were generally in good shape, with adequate stores going into winter, though there was concern about warm November weather causing greater honey consumption. While inflation has affected sales in some areas, demand for local honey remains strong overall. Prices are unpredictable, including “crazy” instances like a shop selling “blue collar” honey at $29.99 for a 12 oz. bottle.
New York colonies also looked good going into winter. Stores were less than optimal due to late summer/fall drought, and some of that honey was uncapped. But low supplies contributed to higher market prices.
The retail market is strong in New Hampshire, with “a lot of money in the economy right now.” And with the drought, a lot of hobbyists had poorer honey years, and thus “less need to get the stuff out of the kitchen.” Colonies also needed feeding going into winter.
Maine’s colonies looked fair to good in late fall. Honey was selling well at the local level, and retail prices were holding steady. One reporter had good luck with Saskatraz queens from Canada.
In Tennessee, an early October frost was followed by several weeks of mild temperatures, and a good supply of fall pollen and nectar, leaving colonies with mostly good stores. Retail sales are good, though imports are still impacting the wholesale market. Meeting attendance is still low, though some members are starting to come back.
Demand for local honey has continued to rise in Virginia. More honey festivals and holiday markets are opening, and customers pay a premium for local honey. Interest in beekeeping also continues, and attendance at winter workshops looks to be as high as ever.
Kentucky’s year was below average, but not terrible. Colonies looked good with mostly decent stores in November.
Georgia’s colonies were looking fair going into winter, with above-normal feeded needed, though many will be heading out of state for winter. Inflation is hurting producers, as honey prices are not rising fast enough to cover costs of everything else.
Much of Florida’s Brazilian pepper crop was destroyed by Hurricane Ian, as were tens of thousands of bee colones — some resided there, but many had recently arrived for the peppers and/or overwintering. The wholesale market is fair, but retail sales continue strong.
Retail demand is also high for local Alabama honey. Store vendor days are a great opportunity to hand out samples and meet customers. But the rising cost of jars has forced price increases.
New Mexico colonies were mostly in good shape in November, with adequate stores. Retail sales are good. There is a shortage of mite-resistant queens, and more breeding is needed for this trait in the Southwest.
Honey inventories in Texas are running low due to poor spring production, but both retail and wholesale demand are high. Colony conditions are mostly good with adequate stores.
Bees look pretty good in northern Illinois. The honey crop was average, but stores are adequate. The economy is “wacky” — prices on jars and other inputs are sky-high, forcing price increases, and consumers are reducing their impluse buys due to to overall inflation and economic uncertainty.
Indiana has seen higher honey prices as well. The antidumping lawsuit has helped, though some wholesale buyers think the price has gone too high too fast. Retail customers seem to just expect everything to be higher nowadays, and barely bat an eye. A northern Indiana reporter dispenses honey out of a tank into whatever container the customer has, for $3.70/pound.
Ohio reports adequate stores and good colony conditions in November. Both wholesale and retail honey sales have suffered of late due to the iffy economy. Chunk honey is selling for $1.00/pound. Demand for spring nucs and packages is looking good.
Michigan’s wholesale market was better in late summer and early fall. Retail customers continue to buy, and many are looking for larger sizes, like gallons and 5-pound jars.
Summer drought cut back Missouri’s goldenrod/aster flow, but most colonies were still heavy from a strong early season, and few needed feeding going into winter. Honey sales are still strong, though even with price increases, beekeepers’ rising costs are cutting into profits.
Grocery prices are clearly hitting consumer budgets in Kansas; demand for honey is still there, but many are buying smaller sizes. Colonies are mostly healthy, with adequate winter stores.
Colonies are also looking good in Nebraska, with little feeding needed. Honey sales are strong.
North Dakota’s colonies look mostly good as well, with most heading to warmer locales for winter.
Drought conditions in Colorado caused a serious drop in honey supplies, resulting in poor sales as well as poor-quality colonies in many areas. Many required heavy feeding.
Nevada also suffered from drought. though late alfalfa flows put colonies in better condition by fall. Honey was selling well both retail and wholesale.
Washington’s honey crops were highly variable by location, and summer drought did not help. The post-COVID tourist trade has still not recovered completely. Honey is also a discretionary item for many, and thus a victim of inflation-driven cutbacks.
Colony conditions are fair in Oregon. Retail sales are strong, though the wholesale market has slowed a little due to rising prices. Varietal honeys are very popular, and can command higher prices; most commercial operators do not have the labor/time to keep these short-season crops separate, so this is an opportunity for smaller beekeepers.
Alaska saw summer/fall drought, and thus nectar and pollen dearth. Colonies needed both syrup and pollen sub to build populations, then more sugar for winter stores. Imports of cheap honey from Washington are cutting into the market for local honey.
Hawaiian colonies are healthy and well-stocked. The retail market is good, both direct to consumer and via health food stores. People value local honey for its health benefits.