Honey Situation and Outlook in Selected Countries
Honey production in six major producing countries in 1998 is forecast at 393,500 metric tons, down 11 percent from the 1997 output. Two of the worlds largest honey producers, China and Argentina, experienced poor weather conditions in 1998, thus influencing the overall decline in world honey production and stocks. China, the worlds largest honey producer, is expected to show a significant production decline in 1998, down 25 percent to 140,000 metric tons. Honey exports for 1998 from selected countries are forecast to decrease by about 1 percent to 163,500 metric tons. Chinas honey exports are expected to rise by 14 percent, recovering from a record low in 1997, despite lower production. Argentina, which became the worlds largest exporter in 1997, is expected to reduce exports in 1998, roughly equivalent to the expected decrease in domestic production. U.S. honey exports in 1998 are forecast at a record 4,500 tons. Major U.S. markets are Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Canada, and Germany. U.S. imports in 1998 are forecast at 60,000 tons, a decrease of 21 percent compared to the previous years level, due to larger U.S. domestic production and carry over stocks.
Chinas honey production in 1998 is forecast to decrease 25 percent to 140,000 tons. This decrease is the result of poor weather conditions and bee diseases. Production in 1997 is revised to 188,000 metric tons, an increase of 20 percent over the previous estimate.
In order to promote the quality of Chinese honey and honeys health benefits, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) has been developing programs directed at increasing honey quality and domestic consumption. The MOA plans to work with traders, honey procurement stations, and the State Bureau of Commercial Inspection to improve the overall quality of Chinese honey. Additionally, the China Bee Products Association has made efforts to organize self-disciplinary action among companies to improve quality standards.
Chinese exports of honey have decreased in each the past three years, but are forecast to rebound in 1998. Chinese exports are forecast at 55,000 tons in 1998, a 13 percent increase over 1997. However, exports are still significantly below previous years. Exports have been hurt by increasing competition in international markets and sluggish demand. The financial crisis in Asia has also had a negative impact on Chinese honey exports, especially to the largest market, Japan.
There has been a clear downward trend in Chinas honey export prices since the second half of 1997. Export prices in June of 1997 were roughly 1,563 dollars per ton, compared with about 1,150 dollars per ton for the first quarter of 1998. Low prices, in combination with the mechanism that regulates Chinese honey imports into the United States, adversely affected exports in 1997 and 1998. According to the Honey Suspension Agreement between the United States and China, the price for honey exported from China to the United States was determined by a reference point set six months prior to actual trading. This made it very difficult for Chinese exporters to ship to the United States in late 1997 and early 1998 because of the six month time lag of the export price reference point. Consequently, as a result of negotiations, the reference point used to set the export price was changed to 3 months prior to actual trading to increase the effectiveness of the price setting arrangement.
Chinas domestic honey consumption in 1998 is forecast to increase 2 percent due to continued strong demand. Recently there has been growth in specialty bee product shops and use of honey as a food ingredient. Honey is viewed as a health food which increases its appeal to consumers. The reduction of Chinese import tariffs from 55 to 25 percent in October 1997 signaled a positive development for potential imports of honey into that market, especially high quality, attractively packaged honey.
Canadas honey production in 1998 is forecast at 33,000 tons, 10 percent above the 1997 output. Favorable rainfall and temperature conditions in the major Canadian honey producing areas resulted in good conditions for bee activity and higher yields.
Canadas honey exports in 1998 are forecast at 9,000 tons, 22 percent above the previous years shipments. The United States and Germany are expected to account for most of this increase. In 1997 exports totaled 7,407 tons, a 35 percent decrease from 1996. This decline reflects reduced re-exports to the United States of honey that has been blended from Canadian and lower priced, imported Chinese honey.
Honey imports in 1997 totaled 1,991 tons, sharply below the record 13,411 tons in 1996. Honey imports in 1998 are forecast to remain at a level similar to 1997. In 1996, Canadian imports of Chinese honey, which had risen steadily in recent years, peaked at 10,918 tons. Since then, the Ontario company which blended imported Chinese honey with Canadian honey for export went bankrupt following the loss of its major buyer in the United States. This change has significantly affected the level of imports from China.
Canada has no quantitative restrictions on honey imports from the United States, but market opportunities for U.S. honey remain limited, reflecting Canadas surplus production position and a strong U.S. dollar. Prospects in the food service and specialty food markets remain fair.
Canada has banned imports of live U.S. bees since 1987 due to the presence of Varroa mite in certain U.S. states. Canada allows the importation of queen bees only from Hawaii under strict health measures. The Government of Canada has been extending the import ban at two year intervals, with the current honeybee import prohibition order expiring in December 1999.
Honey production in 1998 is forecast at 60,000 tons, 14 percent below the revised 1997 output. Unfavorable weather conditions during 1998 negatively impacted honey production and decreased yields from 35.9 kg/colony to 31.9 kg/colony.
Argentina was the worlds largest exporter of honey last year and is expected to remain the worlds largest honey exporter in 1998. Exports in 1998 are forecast at 58,000 tons, 17 percent lower than the revised 1997 shipments, due in large part to the decrease in this years production. Most of the Argentine honey is exported in bulk in 300 kilogram drums. Only a small amount of honey is packaged in jars and exported to Brazil. Honey is exported during the entire year with the heaviest export flow taking place between March and May. The United States was the main import market in 1997, accounting for 67 percent of total shipments. Other key export markets include Germany, Italy, the UK, and Japan.
Only about 4 percent of Argentinas honey production is consumed domestically. Honey consumption has remained relatively stable due to competition from sugar, which continues to be the cheapest sweetener available in Argentina. However, consumption is expected to decline slightly in 1998 because of the reduced supply.
Honey production in 1998 is forecast at 56,500 tons, 5 percent above the revised 1997 estimate. The increase in production in 1998 is mainly due to favorable weather conditions in Mexicos major honey producing regions, which induced early and rapid blooming of flowers.
Mexican producers are currently gaining an increased level of knowledge and experience in dealing with the serious problems of the Varroa mite and the Africanization of apiaries. Small and non-traditional hobbyist producers continue to leave the industry because of lack of experience with these issues, while the remaining producers are more equipped to implement the necessary control practices. However, production of queen bees, which are used to prevent Africanization of beehives, is still insufficient to cover domestic demand. The Varroa mite is present throughout Mexicos honey producing regions, with the exception of the states of Baja California Sur and Quintana Roo, but state and government assistance has helped to make some headway in combating infestations and increasing output.
Exports of honey in 1998 are forecast at 25,000 tons, 10 percent above 1997 shipments. In 1998, export prices were more attractive than domestic prices and this again shifted supply to the international market. Major export markets for Mexican honey include Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia. Mexicos honey industry largely focuses on international markets because honey is more expensive than other sweeteners, such as sugar, in the domestic market.
Germanys honey production in 1998 is forecast at 15,000 tons, only marginally below the previous years output of 15,069 tons. Cold and rainy spring weather contributed to relatively low production and yields in the past two years. Additionally, the number of apiarists and number of commercial colonies have both showed a slow decline in recent years, contributing to lower production.
Germany, the worlds largest importer of honey is forecast to increase imports slightly in 1998, to 85,000 metric tons. The bulk of imports are from Argentina, China, and Mexico and arrive in large containers that are processed further before domestic sale or re-export. Imports from the United States in 1997 totaled 110 tons. The German market provides opportunities for U.S. honey processors, especially if the honey is marketed in attractive jars (i.e., appealing to children) or plastic containers in consumer-friendly sizes.
Germany exported 13,059 tons in 1997 and is forecast to export 12,000 tons in 1998, with most going to other European Union countries such as the Netherlands, Austria, and France.
The first official estimate of 1998 U.S. honey production, based on an objective survey, will not be available from the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) until February 1999.
Weather conditions were variable throughout the country for the 1998 season, but yields are expected to increase slightly. Most sources expect production in 1998 to be approximately 89,000 tons, slightly above last years output.
According to industry sources, the number of apiarists and bee colonies continues to decline. Small apiarists continue to leave the market because of the variability in prices and the increasing cost and time needed to maintain colonies that are highly productive and free of pests. Decreasing colony numbers are mainly the result of an increased use of pesticides, increasing losses from mites, and rising production costs.
Nearly half of all bee colonies and more than half of all U.S. honey production in the United States is located in California, Florida, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
Exports of U.S. honey in 1998 are forecast at 4,500 tons, a 11 percent increase from last years shipments and roughly equal to 1996 exports. U.S. imports in 1998 are forecast at 60,000 tons, a 21 percent reduction from 1997's record level. Large beginning stocks and increased domestic production contributed to the decreased demand for imports in 1998. Honey imports from China and Argentina, where 1998 production declined due to unfavorable weather, account for much of the decrease.
The United States is one of the worlds largest markets for industrial honey. This sector accounts for approximately 45 percent of total domestic consumption. The primary users of industrial honey are bakery, health food, and cereal manufacturers. Other users such as the food service industry account for another 10 percent of domestic consumption. However, individual consumers who purchase small amounts of honey for personal use also significantly contribute to overall consumption in the United States.
Weather in Sweden and Finland during the summer of 1998 was unusually wet and cold and had a detrimental affect on honey production. Imports are expected to increase by 50 to 70 percent, possibly reaching a high of 5,000 tons. The United States exported 79 tons to Sweden in 1997 and 75 tons in the first 7 months of 1998. Though both Sweden and Finland are small markets for U.S. honey, the lower production allows for possibility of capturing a greater part of that market.
A reduction of the tariff rate for honey in the Philippines will bring the rate from the current 20 percent to 15 percent in 1999 and 10 percent in 2000. Although the Philippines imports less than 100 metric tons per year from the United States, this provides greater access and the prospect of increased U.S. exports in the future.
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