Honey, Whats Happening?
Here’s my take on what’s happening, for better or for worse.
It is clear that over the past two years, the apiculture industry has been a business of haves and have-nots. If you have good Manuka sites, you are probably doing just fine. If not, well the cost/price squeeze is hurting. However, what also is clear, is that beekeepers are hard workers and don’t easily give up. And I think that the current situation may be offering a faint glimmer of hope.
With the Covid-19 pandemic, shelves in stores around the world have emptied. Also, there is a strong link with health and honey in general and Manuka honey in particular. I have personally heard that shelves in China are empty of honey and it is being actively sought after. I have a sense that New Zealand honey especially will now be seen with some favour. Clearly there will be a strong association with New Zealand’s sensible and apparently successful approach to dealing with the Covid-19 crisis. The lower New Zealand dollar vis-à-vis the US dollar, should also provide a somewhat better return to the beekeeper.
The main issues I see are the conditions in the major overseas markets and the supply chains. China seems to be getting back to normal, so the supply chains for at least container shipments should be able to get product to that market. The US however seems a different story. It is one of confusion and fear approaching chaos. I for one would not be happy making a business trip to the US for many months. However, if a honey business already has contacts and good trading history, I expect that at least Manuka honey will arrive on the shelves in the US and sell well. My personal desire is to see the market for non-Manuka honey grow, and the US has always been my preferred first market. I am confident that the Covid-19 situation just helps the potential for non-Manuka honey in the US. The strong association of honey and health will add the cherry on top to a marketing campaign. But building the non-Manuka honey market in the US will be affected by that country’s poor response to the global pandemic. Still non-Manuka honey should see steady market penetration in most overseas markets that can rebuild their distribution networks in quick time.
So I expect that Manuka honey will continue strong growth in its existing markets, and non-Manuka honey will see a spike in demand to fill shelves in China and SE Asia, followed by a slow but steady growth in sales overseas. Once the Covid-19 pandemic is behind us thanks to a vaccine, and borders open, the opportunity to clear large stocks of honey at better prices will present themselves.