South East Honey Yield and Prices Survey
My thanks are due to beekeepers who contributed to my S.E Region Honey Survey this year. The main purpose of this survey is to gather information for the DEFRA's annual statistics on food production in the UK. However, as the results may be of general interest to beekeepers, I am circulating the results more widely. The number of replies received (28) is fewer that is required for a statistically robust analysis. However, they give a reasonable indication of honey yields and prices within our region.
When analysing the replies, I have used all information I received except where it was clearly unrepresentative of beekeepers generally (for instance, where all a beekeepers colonies were severely affected by pesticides). Where respondents gave two or more figures for a single variable (e.g. a range of potential prices), I used a simple average of these. In the discussion below, I have made comparison with the final results from previous surveys asking the same questions about the 1999 and 2000 seasons. Figures for the 2000 survey differ slightly from those published in last years report as several replies were received after its production.
Average Honey Yield
25 replies ranging from 0lbs to 110lbs per colony
2001 average = 60lbs (2000 = 56lb; 1999=58lb)
Bulk Honey (Flower) Price:
4 replies ranging from £1.00/lb to £1.25/lb
2001 average=£1.16/lb (2000 = £1.13/lb; 1999=£0.99)
Wholesale Honey (Flower) Price:
10 replies ranging from £1.40/lb to £3.00/lb
2001 average = £1.94/lb (2000 = £1.61/lb; 1999=£1.68)
Direct Sales Honey (Flower) Price:
25 replies ranging from £1.40/lb to £3.50/lb
2001 average £2.29/lb (2000=£2.29/lb; 1999=£2.30)
Cut Comb Price:
7 replies were received ranging from £2.50/lb to £5.00/lb.
2001 average = £3.94/lb (2000= £4.43/lb; 1999=£4.03)
No replies were received, which reflects the small amount of heather honey produced in the South East.
Beekeepers' comments referred to the cold weather in the spring; problems with swarming; bee diseases (mainly EFB); bee poisoning; changing levels of Oil Seed Rape grown locally; and both unusually high and unusually low honey crops.
2001 was another difficult beekeeping year for many beekeepers. An exceptionally cold and late spring lead to a slow start to the season and an unusually high level of losses from starvation. When good weather finally came in May many colonies immediately responded by swarming. Certainly a very large proportion of colonies inspected by bee inspectors during the early summer had no brood and few adult bees and this clearly significantly reduced their ability to gather a honey crop. However, for colonies that remained strong, periods of hot weather during summer lead to a strong honey flow in many areas and opportunity for bees to gather a good crop. The result of these opposing influences seems to have been that while some beekeepers have had an excellent season for honey production, others have a poor crop. There was wide variation between the colony yields reported by beekeepers in this survey. The average yield per colony given (60lbs) is very similar to that of the past two years.
As far as sale of honey is concerned, direct sale to customers again seemed to be the commonest method - nearly all respondents provided a figure for this. However, as usual there is little agreement over price with a 2.5 fold difference between the highest and lowest figures provided. The average price for honey sold in this way, £2.29 is almost unchanged from last year. Using figures from this survey, an average crop of honey per colony was worth £138 when sold direct at average prices (not taking cost of packaging etc. into account).
About a third of replies indicated selling honey wholesale to a retailer. Although a wide range of prices were provided, there was slightly closer agreement than for direct sales, with approximately a two-fold difference between lowest and highest prices. For reasons that are not clear, the average price for honey sold in this way was about 20% higher than that for last year. At average wholesale price, an average crop of honey was worth £117 (not taking cost of packaging etc. into account).
Few beekeepers indicated they sold honey in bulk. Those who did agreed reasonably closely about price. At the average bulk price, an average crop of honey was worth £70 (not taking cost of packaging etc. into account)..
About a third of replies indicated selling cut-comb honey. No distinction was made in the questionnaire between wholesale and direct-sale of cut-comb, however, it thought that the majority of cut-comb is sold direct. This year there was closer agreement between the minimum and maximum prices provided, with a two-fold difference. The average price of cut comb honey was approximately 1.75 times the cost of extracted honey sold direct. At the average cut comb price, an average crop of honey was worth £238 (not taking cost of packaging etc. into account).
Beekeepers contributing to this survey reported wide variation in both honey yield and honey prices, however, average figures for both yield and prices compare favourably with the past two years. There is wide variation in the value of honey marketed in different forms, with cut-comb honey particularly valuable. Some individual beekeepers seem to have found a market for their honey that allows them to obtain a significantly higher price than others. Overall these figures indicate than most beekeepers have obtained a reasonable return for their beekeeping investment and efforts over the past season.