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The Hunger For Honey Part 1
How Much Honey Does The US Consume?
Honey has become liquid gold for many consumers in the US right now. It is produced by one of the world’s most treasured species, the honey bee. These fantastic creatures buzz about millions of blossoms in their lifetimes, making pollination of plants possible and collecting nectar to bring back to the hive to produce honey. Since the beginning of time, it has been the beekeepers' job to harvest the excess honey from hives and bottle it for consumption. The perfect conditions and careful procedures followed by beekeeping professionals ensure that the sweetness of honey is sustainable today as well as for future generations.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that 163,000,000 pounds of honey are produced in the United States each year. Despite the considerable growth of the US beekeeping industry, a sizable portion of the honey used for consumption is also imported. This is due to the high demand for honey in relation to its supply within the country. On the one hand, importing honey opens up a whole new can of worms that could potentially harm the existing supply of local honey. On the other hand, importing honey is also necessary to address the growing demand for honey all around the US.
So, how does an industry deal with the problems and complexities that arise as a result of the recent tariffs imposed on the importation of honey?
This is more complicated than it appears to be. In order to better understand the nuances of honey importation, you need to have an understanding of how much honey the US produces and how much honey it imports.
United States honey production in 2019 totaled 157 million pounds, up 2% from the prior year. Also, there were 2.81 million bee colonies producing honey in 2019, typically producing between 50 and 100 pounds per colony of honey for harvest. Although these numbers seem impressive, it just is not enough.
As the demand for honey-sweetened products rises, over the years, the US import of honey has experienced new heights than ever before. During the past 10 years, there has been an increase of 73% in US honey imports. According to the USDA, honey imports account for nearly 70% of total honey available for use in the United States in 2020. This is an increase of 16% since the 54% of total honey imports in 2010. The top honey importers into the US are an ever-changing list of suppliers, including Vietnam, rising to the top position in 2020, followed by Argentina, India, Brazil, and Ukraine. In total, these 5 suppliers represented 88% of all imports into the US in 2020. A massive chunk of that goes into the average US household.
However, this steady growth in the volume of imports to the U.S. honey market has not been without controversy. In 2021, U.S. producers filed anti-dumping petitions with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) against several top supplying countries. The preliminary ruling discovered that there is evidence that suggests that imports of raw honey from Argentina, Brazil, India, Ukraine, and Vietnam were allegedly sold in the United States at less than fair value. The appeal of more accessible and cheaper honey in the market has the potential to seriously injure the US honey industry.
As you can see, this is a double-edged sword where there is a need to prevent imported honey from oversaturating the market while also providing the consumer with the opportunity to enjoy a more affordable product. Imposing tariffs on imported honey would prevent it from flooding the market from overseas but will ultimately hurt the consumer.
As with most business relationships, the consumer is the most important stakeholder in the whole process. Each and every product that is available in the market today is catered toward the average consumer who will go with whichever item that gives the most value for money. At the same time, it is crucial to protect the producers of said product.
When it comes to the art of beekeeping, not many individuals have the talent, skills, nor resources to successfully care for bee colonies. It is the efforts of those who have mastered the particular set of skills needed for proper management and care who can make a profit in this industry. From beekeepers in Washington state to packers in Maine, the honey industry's impact is evident across the country, as well as in the overall U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).
By taking these factors into consideration, it is clear that there needs to be a set of checks and balances on honey imports into the US as a means of protecting the growers. However, these mechanisms need to be implemented in a way that does not harm the consumers. While most beekeepers understand the importance of creating an affordable product, the US honey industry also needs to control the market being flooded with products from overseas.
Like all good relationships, this is where compromise becomes an important factor. Whereas this seems like a near impossible task, most experts believe that reaching a solution where both the grower and the consumer can mutually benefit from the existing mechanism is not impossible.
At Blythewood Beekeeping, we believe in providing quality goods and services that would improve your beehive colonies. Explore the goods and services that you may need for any beekeeping needs.