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Is US Honey Imports Tariff Hurting US Consumers? | The Hunger for Honey - Part 3

Is US Honey Imports Tariff Hurting US Consumers? | The Hunger for Honey - Part 3

Honey has become the new gold in the world of exports with ever-increasing imports and rates of consumption. The US per capita consumption of pure honey consisted of about 1.4 pounds in 2018. This figure is at an all-time high for the average American household.

As the popularity of honey has increased as an alternative to sugar and other processed sweeteners, the hunger for honey has gotten more pronounced.

Emerging as one of the healthier alternatives available in the market, honey has become one of the most profitable industries in the United States. According to the National Honey Board, the consumption of liquid honey grew by over 25% between 2012 and 2015. 

It sounds like a sweet deal right? Think again! Lately, there have been many complications and controversies surrounding the US honey industry and it is about time that we set the record straight. While the demand for honey is at an all-time high, local production just hasn’t been able to keep up with the rapidly increasing demands of US consumers. As a result, the US has significantly increased honey imports from other countries.

In 1990, the US produced over 90,000 tons of honey and imported roughly 35,000 tonnes or about 40% of domestic production. Twenty-five years later, the ratios have reversed. In 2015, the US produced 71,000 tons, while imports have risen to over 175,000 tons and domestic production is now 40% of imports.

Therefore, in 2020, imports accounted for 70% of total honey available for use in the United States, up from 54% in 2010. Today, the US is the world’s largest importer of honey and accounts for about one-quarter of global imports

Who are the major world producers of honey?

The increased demand for honey is not only observed within the US but also all around the world. According to Statistica, China, Turkey, Canada, Argentina, and Iran are the top 5 honey producers in the world in 2019. As the world’s largest importer of honey, the US sources its honey from numerous countries.

According to OEC, the US primarily imported Honey from Argentina ($89.4M), Brazil ($71.3M), Vietnam ($64.7M), India ($58.3M), and New Zealand ($47.5M) in 2020. The fastest growing import markets in Honey for the United States between 2019 and 2020 were Brazil ($16.9M), Vietnam ($15.4M), and New Zealand ($12.1M). 

What tariffs has the USA placed on the various world honey producers?

The US is known to produce almost 200 million pounds of honey annually. Altogether, that amounts to almost 600 million pounds of honey a year. That means more than 400 million pounds of honey need to be imported annually to satisfy the American population’s demand for honey. But importing honey comes with its own set of complications.

The United States International Trade Commission (USITC) has determined that the US honey industry is at risk due to the imports of raw honey from Argentina, Brazil, India, and Vietnam.

The sale of imported honey at less than fair value puts pressure on local beekeepers to compete with products that are sold at a much cheaper price. 

This has caused the US International Trade Commission to issue antidumping duty orders on imports of honey from Argentina, Brazil, India, and Vietnam. Additionally, China, the world’s largest honey producer and exporter face almost 3x import duties from the US due to a previous attempt at dumping honey into US markets and the potential contamination of the product from illegal and unsafe antibiotics as well as high levels of herbicides and pesticides. 

How has imported honey directly affected the price of domestic honey prices?

United States honey prices increased 21% in 2021 to $2.54 per pound, compared to $2.10 per pound in 2020. In this way, honey prices continue to rise due to the federal anti-dumping act and higher production and packaging costs. Regardless, the demand for honey and its products is still as high as ever.

To combat the ever-increasing price of honey, the US government utilises Chinese honey by eliminating tariffs on them when necessary. Resultantly, the US can import more honey from the world’s largest exporter when needed. This helps regulate the soaring prices of honey in America. 

Do tariffs affect how much the consumer pays?

The harsh reality is that it is inevitable that the price of honey will continue to rise due to the anti-dumping checks and balances set on honey imports from dumping into US markets. This is an inevitable burden that the consumer will have to bear.

However, these anti-dumping tariffs are in place to protect the  major honey-producing businesses. History has taught the honey industry that it needs strong regulations to control the heavy influx of honey from foreign producers. The existing tariffs ensure the protection of the major US honey producers while putting the burden of increased cost squarely on the backs of the consumer. 

This series is all about shedding some light on the buzz surrounding the honey industry and spreading awareness to both producers and consumers of honey. It is also important that everyone aware of the latest developments in policy, tariffs and much more!

As an industry-leading beekeeping supply company, Blythewood Bee Company  offers high-quality beekeeping equipment such as,  frames, beekeeping starter kits, hive supplies, protective gear, and educational beekeeping information across the USA. For the latest on all things beekeeping, check out Blythewood Bee Company Supplies and Services.

General Questions 

What specific measures are being taken to support local U.S. beekeepers in response to the challenges posed by imports?

Various initiatives support local U.S. beekeepers facing competition from imported honey. These include financial assistance programs, research into disease-resistant bee strains, and education on advanced beekeeping techniques. Marketing campaigns also promote the benefits of buying locally produced honey, driving consumer preference for domestic products.

How does the quality of imported honey compare to domestic honey, particularly concerning health standards like antibiotic and pesticide levels?

Imported honey quality varies widely, depending on the country of origin, whereas U.S. honey is subject to stringent testing for contaminants like antibiotics and pesticides. The U.S. enforces strict import regulations to prevent low-quality imports, especially from regions previously cited for contamination issues, such as China.

What are the environmental impacts of importing honey from countries like Argentina, Brazil, Vietnam, India, and New Zealand?

Importing honey from countries like Argentina and New Zealand has significant environmental impacts due to the carbon emissions from long-distance transportation. This raises sustainability concerns and prompts advocacy for more locally sourced honey to reduce the carbon footprint.

Are there significant differences in honey consumption patterns across different states or regions within the U.S.?

Yes, honey consumption patterns vary by region within the U.S. Factors such as local agricultural practices, climate, and regional dietary preferences influence these patterns. Regions with strong local beekeeping communities tend to consume more local honey and show greater awareness of the benefits of supporting local beekeepers.

What future trends or innovations could potentially relieve the pressure on honey imports?

Future trends and innovations that could reduce reliance on imported honey include advances in beekeeping technology, such as automated hive management systems and improved disease control methods. Breeding programs to enhance bee colony resilience and productivity, along with increased public and governmental support for sustainable practices, can also play a critical role in alleviating pressure on the U.S. honey industry.


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