American Shipper

Florida honey industry tries to combat imports

Florida honey industry tries to combat imports

   Florida beekeepers and packers said Monday they are exploring the idea of a marketing cooperative to help the state’s honey industry survive the growing imports of inexpensive honey.

   In response to growing concerns about the continued viability of this segment of Florida’s agriculture industry, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson directed his division of marketing and development to work with representatives of the honey industry to develop strategies to strengthen Florida’s position in the marketplace, Bronson's office said in a statement.

   Marketing representatives met with several producers and packers last week to seek input and explore the creation of a cooperative, and discussed areas where vertical integration might be applicable, development of quality standards and specifications, and development of brand awareness for Florida honey.

   In Florida, there are about 1,200 registered beekeepers, including hobbyists. Commercial producers — which includes those with 500 or more hives — stands at slightly more than 100. With about 205,000 honeybee colonies, Florida ranks third in U.S. honey production behind California and North Dakota. Yielding an average 98 pounds of honey per colony, Florida produced more than 20 million pounds of honey in 2004 valued at more than $20 million.

   The vast majority of Florida honey is shipped out of state and commercially blended with honey from other sources before it enters the marketplace, essentially as a generic product. But foreign imports — which are being sold at 25 percent to 50 percent below Florida prices — are squeezing Florida producers out of this market, the statement said.