Global honey glut stinging Manitoba beekeepers
Producers worry over-supply could force some out of business
Manitoba beekeepers say they have been stung by a global glut of honey, sinking prices and leading to fears it could force some out of business.
Allan Campbell co-owns Durston Honey Farms near Dauphin, Man. His farm is still sitting on some of last year's crop. He said not even slashing prices is making it move.
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"We're seeing a global glut of honey, it seems" he said. "I've spoken with many different producers who are still sitting on tons and tons of last year's honey."
"Last year we were getting about $2.35 per pound. That has dropped to $1.15 so far," he said.
Campbell said it's unusual to have honey left over from a previous year and he's never had issues selling it before next year's crop is ready. He blames changes in export patterns for the issues.
"We're seeing more Argentine honey coming into the United States, which is huge market for Canada, so now we're competing with them," he said. "To make matters worse, there seems to be quite an issue with Chinese honey being transshipped through other countries and coming into the country illegally."
A national problem
And it's not just a Manitoba problem. Beekeepers across Canada are dealing with the same issues, according to Canadian Honey Council chair Kevin Nixon.
"The market is saturated globally and it is affecting all of us right now," he said. "We've been told there is a global over-supply of honey."
Nixon said he's heard of the same issues with Chinese honey as Campbell has. He said honey from that country laced with antibiotics essentially shut down China's honey export market in the mid-2000s. But they've since become creative and it's making its way back to North America.
"They started shipping it to other countries and those countries re-exported it," Nixon said. "We're seeing honey coming from Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar."
Nixon said honey can be traced by inspecting traces of pollen and floral patterns.
"This isn't about food safety, this is about food fraud," he said. "This is really damaging to the industry."
Nixon believes some of the honey is making its way to Canada, but not as much as is making its way into the United States. But honey imports there are affecting Canada. Beekeepers like Campbell can't produce honey at the low costs of some of the imported stock.
"We haven't seen a problem moving our honey into the marketplace from this degree," he said.
Campbell said some honey-producers are mixing Canadian honey with honey from other countries.
Campbell said he's now running with about two-thirds the staff he would normally have in a typical summer in the hope that it cuts his costs.
Both Nixon and Campbell are urging consumers to look at the back of the honey jar before they buy to see exactly where it comes from and is hoping they will opt for 100% Canadian honey. They are also calling for a crackdown on honey imports to ensure that what is entering Canada is actually honey and meets Canadian standards.
"If you don't support your local industry, they aren't going to be around much longer," Campbell said.
He fears some producers won't be able to weather the downturn. He said his business, which has been around since the 1950s, might not be around much longer if the markets don't shape up.
CBC News has requested information on Canada's honey imports from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, but has yet to hear back.