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Honey harvest down, but exports up: report

New Zealand’s national honey production in the 2020/2021 season was down 24% on the previous season and the average honey yield per hive fell 18%, according to the 2021 Apiculture Monitoring Report released by the Ministry of Primary Industries this week.

Meanwhile, more honey was exported from New Zealand than in any previous year (12,788 tonnes). Export volumes increased sharply in mid-2020 following the initial Covid-19 outbreak. Part of this related to overseas buyers building stocks ahead of anticipated supply chain disruptions, but also due to increased consumer awareness and interest in healthy foods.

Export volumes have consolidated this year at levels higher than recorded before Covid-19 emerged, and as at the end of October, are on track to match the record set last year.

Beekeeping for the season ended June 2021 proved to be more challenging than recent seasons, with the national honey production down 24% on the 2019/2020 year to 20,500 tonnes, while the average honey yield per hive fell 18% to 25kgs.

These findings will not be surprising to beekeepers, says Apiculture NZ CEO Karin Kos. “Last summer presented more challenging weather conditions than the previous season when the harvest was aided by excellent weather across the country.

“While the 2021 year was well down the preceding one, it was in line with the five-year average of 21,000 tonnes.”

Contributing to the lower volume was a fall in the total number of registered hives in New Zealand – down 7% to 806,140. Hive numbers peaked in 2019 when 918,026 hives were registered. Ms Kos says hive numbers have fallen for the second successive year, likely reflecting challenging economic conditions for beekeepers, including a trend of lower prices for most non-mānuka honeys and increased compliance costs.

While there has been some retraction in commercial beekeeping, the attraction of beekeeping as a hobby has escalated. The number of beekeepers with five or fewer registered hives reached a record 6,748 (an increase of 10% on the previous year) and reflects ongoing interest in New Zealanders taking up beekeeping as a hobby.

“Looking ahead, late flowering at the start of the 2021/22 season has resulted in the spring nectar flow being slower to kick in. However, warmer weather over the past month has seen better honey flow in most regions and beekeepers are looking forward to a good season, production-wise,” says Ms Kos.

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Vincent Heeringa

Vincent Heeringa

Vincent Heeringa is a communications strategist, writer, marketer and PR expert specialising in tech, investment, and sustainability. He was co-founder of Idealog, Stoppress and Good magazines and helped establish the Science Media Centre. He is the host of a podcast ‘This Climate Business’, co-founder of The Feed.co.nz, and a trustee of the Adventure Specialties Trust. And there's nothing he loves more than a good story. vincentheeringa.com

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