Washington Restaurant Market Watch: Nothing sweet for restaurants in California honey shortage

Washington Restaurant Market Watch: Nothing sweet for restaurants in California honey shortage https://wahospitality.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/honey-273.jpg

By Paul Schlienz

The Golden State is in the midst of a brutal, three year long drought. More than 80 percent of the state is laboring under “extreme” or “exceptional” drought. This would be bad enough if only Californians were suffering through water shortages and inevitable impacts on agriculture, but one can never underemphasize that California is also the nation’s No. 1 agricultural producer. Big impacts on commodities markets and food prices have a ripple that goes far beyond the intensely cultivated croplands of the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys. And you can be sure that restaurants will soon feel the effects if they haven’t already.

Among the products affected by California’s bone dry conditions is honey. California has traditionally been a paradise for beekeepers, possessing an enormous amount of crops and wildflowers that produce the nectar that bees turn into honey.

Unfortunately, the drought has turned this happy balance upside down.
“Around 800,000 acres of farmland have been pulled out of production with devastating effect on beekeepers,” said Carlen Jupe, secretary/treasurer of the California State Beekeepers Association. “If you can’t find commercial pollination deals, it means you’ve either fed your bees at your own expense, you’ve lost them or you’ve moved them out of state. As a result, honey suppliers have been scraping to find supplies.”

During the drought, California’s honey crop dropped from 27.5 million pounds, in 2010, to 10.9 million pounds, in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. All indications are that this year’s crop will be even worse.

Honey prices are now at an all-time high. During the past eight years, the average retail price for honey increased 65 percent from $3.83 to $6.32 per pound, according to the National Honey Board.

“Prices will go up drastically for restaurants, and customers will feel it when they pay their bills,” said Angie Pappas, director of communications for the California Restaurant Association. “You will also see the same thing happen with other commodities that are produced in California.”

Pappas is especially concerned about shortages of avocados because California is the main U.S. producer of these fruits. Additionally, she foresees a shortage of rice because this major California crop is so dependent on irrigation water that is no longer available due to the drought.

“I’m afraid this is going to be a long-term problem,” said Pappas. “We’re just bracing ourselves for the next wave of price increases.”

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