14 December 2023

Wet weather killed 2023 honey production, better prospects for this season

The impact of wet and wild weather last summer on the 2023 honey production season was confirmed today with the publication of the annual MPI Apiculture Monitoring Data.

The reported data shows the total annual honey production reached only 12,000 tonnes, down from 22,000 in 2022 and a long way short of the five-year average of 20,900. The poor return reflected last summer’s extreme weather events, and relentless rain at key times, especially in the north of the country.

Apiculture New Zealand chief executive Karin Kos says, “The national 2023 honey harvest represents the weakest production performance since 2012 when there were substantially fewer hives in operation.”

The national honey yield per hive (20.1 kgs) was only two-thirds of that achieved in the 2022 season, but this average masked a divergence in fortunes between those operating in the North and South Islands. For the first time in more than ten years the national yield was split evenly between the islands (6,000 tonnes produced in each). For the North Island this reflected an historically paltry 14.4kgs per hive, compared with 32.6kgs in the South Island.

The monitoring data also shows registered hive numbers have continued to drop, reflecting successive years of modest producer prices and challenging trading conditions. As previously reported, total numbers were down to just over 600,000 in April, the majority (417,000) of which continue to be located in the North Island. But the North Island is where the productive capacity is falling fastest (hive numbers were down 22% on 2022 in the North Island, compared with 7% in the South Island).

“Last season was very tough for beekeepers in the North Island, with many saying they had never experienced such adverse conditions. However, forecasts for the current season are for hotter and drier weather, particularly in the east of New Zealand, which should prove to be more favourable for honey production,” says Ms Kos.

Meanwhile, the subdued global economy has been challenging for honey exporters. Export revenue for the year to June 2023 was down 17% to $379 million. But with expectations of improved trading conditions in 2024, MPI’s latest Situation and Outlook for the Primary Industries report, also released today, is predicting honey export revenue to bounce back by 8% to $410 million for the year to June 2024.

More details in the MPI apiculture monitoring data can be read here



Hives in Mangawhai, Northland damaged by Cyclone Gabrielle. Photo: Richard Kidd.