bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Beefarming and globalization

Making a business from beefarming in Britain seems like very hard work. Estimates of commercial beekeepers are about 100 — but it probably isn't a full-time occupation for any of them. One British beefarmer recently told a local audience that his four hundred hives can produce about 10 tonnes of honey plus additional income from pollination contracts in orchards. I'm not sure I could make the sums add up.

But in Thailand, beekeeping as a business seems to be on the up according to the Thai Nation newspaper. Somba and Supha Yawilert are one of 300 beekeeping enterprise in the three big honey producing provinces of Thailand. They have become one of the largest operations after Supha gave up government job to earn a better living as a beekeeper. From 1,200 colonies, she days she can harvest 60 tonnes of “concentrated” honey — it’s not clear exactly what concentrated honey is, but her 72 tonnes last year “were not as concentrated”.

Quality is the major price determinant and Nestle, as one of the big Thai buyers, sets the price. About 50% of the national 6,000 tonnes honey harvest is exported, and production is expected to rise by 15% this year.

Unless global warming takes a very dramatic turn, I wonder how much longer British beefarmers can make a reasonable living in our unpredictable climate. Will the last commercial British beekeeper please put the crown board back on the hive?


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