May 02, 2017
By Debra Davis
Alabama honey production increased 10 percent in the past year, compared to 3 percent nationally. State honey producers said good spring weather helped offset effects of last year's drought in many areas of Alabama.
Alabama honey producers tasted sweet success last year as they increased yields by 10 percent, outpacing the national average, which grew only 3 percent.
In 2016, Alabama’s honey crop was 364,000 pounds, up from 329,000 pounds in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Alabama Farmers Federation’s Mac Higginbotham said the increase is proof Alabamians value Mother Nature’s pollinators and the sweet reward they offer consumers each year.
“Bees are a mutually beneficial commodity,” said Higginbotham, the Federation’s Bee & Honey Division director. “Not only do they produce sweet-tasting honey, but through pollination, bees provide an invaluable service to farmers and to the wildlife community. It’s reported that one out of every three bites of food eaten worldwide is made possible by pollinators, especially bees.”
Alabama averages about 900 registered beekeepers and numerous hobby farmers, Higginbotham added.
While Alabama bee and honey producers saw increased yields last year, the price consumers paid for honey dropped 15 percent from an average of $3.83 a pound in 2015 to $3.37 in 2016.
Troy Latham of Semmes in Mobile County has sold honey a couple of years and is optimistic about his future.
“The honey market in this area of the state was good,” said Latham, 47, who is a member of the Federation’s State Bee & Honey Committee. “I’ve heard reports from areas of the state hit hard by the drought that there was a decline in honey harvests.”
Latham also reported an above-average price for his honey, most of which is sold from his home using social media. He sells a 1-pound jar of honey for $10, and a 3-pound jar fetches $18-$20.
State Bee & Honey Committee Chairman Bill Mullins of Meridianville has been a beekeeper for 42 years. He said last year was the best spring for bees he’s ever seen, but it was followed by the worst fall.
“We ended up with an average or slightly above-average year anyway,” Mullins said. “The drought definitely affected honey production in and around Madison County, but we still managed a good year.”
Mullins sells a 1-pound jar of honey for $6, but he noted prices vary greatly around the state and are usually dictated by supply and demand.
Mullins and Latham say there’s no typical customer for honey, except they all love its sweet, natural taste.
“There are some customers who buy it to help with allergies, and some prefer to use natural, locally grown honey for cooking,” Latham said.
For more information about Alabama honey, visit tinyurl.com/AlabamaHoney.