Its official. 2009 was a terrible year to be in the honey business. Recently we polled our Honey Market Reporters and came up with an estimate for the U. S. honey crop for 2009. Our guesstimate was 119 million pounds, produced by 2,223,000 colonies. The USDA today released their figures (pdf). Though higher than ours at 144,108,000 pounds of honey, it is still the worst honey crop on record. Ever. USDA figures showed a colony count of 2,462,000 ... a couple hundred thousand higher than our guesstimate.
Theres a couple more numbers that are important here that need to be in the mix. For instance, some beekeepers always have some unsold honey at the end of the year. This honey, left over from last year (2008) has to be added to the honey produced this year (2009). Plus, you also have to add in the honey that was imported into the U.S. during 2009, and subtract the honey that beekeepers exported. This final figure gives a nice picture of how much honey was used in the U.S. overall during 2009. That total figure is 363,754,996 pounds. If you divide that total figure by the average U.S. population for 2009, you get a handy figure to have ... per capita consumption, which is, for 2009 - .903 pounds, or right about 14.5 ounces. Did you eat your pound of honey last year?
Historically, this per capita figure is down a bit. Last year it was .960 pounds, or 15.4 ounces per person. The figure most honey experts use is a pound a person every year, so though a tad off, these figures are still in the ball park.
Survey figures, by our magazine and others, however, show that obviously not every person in the U.S. eats their pound of honey. Rather, only about 1 in 4.5 or 1 in 5 people eat any honey at all, so those that do, are eating 4 or 5 pounds each. Thank you.
The imported figure is a bit scary, not unlike a lot of other foods we consume. The U.S. imported 211,418,300 pounds ... or almost 60% of the honey we ate last year. That percentage has been creeping up slowly for several years and no end is in sight. Less U.S. production coupled with the fact that U.S. honey costs more than almost all imported honey makes that easy to understand.
The average price of honey increased a couple cents per pound - 2 percent over last years prices, from $1.421 to $1.445 per pound. Retail prices, however, were even higher, rising from $2.247 to $2.784 per pound, or just over 50 cents a pound. Thats a hike by any standard.
The last caveat for this report is that the USDA does not contact, nor count, beekeeping operations that have 5 or fewer colonies. There are a lot of these in this country and their production does add up, but for the most part, the honey produced by these beekeepers does not enter the stream of commerce, but rather is consumed at home, shared with neighbors and family, or sold to friends or coworkers. It would be interesting to be able to measure that amount, and count those beekeepers ... hidden away in the backyards and rooftops of America, wouldnt it?
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