Will Buzzing Honey Market Continue Flying High?

August 15, 2003 - Posted at: 10:45pm

JONESBORO, AR -- Bobby Coy bought his first hive in 1969 after seeing colonies in his father's backyard. Decades later, his beekeeping business is still buzzing, but for a while he wasn't sure his company would survive.

"Dad and I got more bees, and became partners. We stayed partners until he died in 1978," said Coy.

Coy's been a beekeeper long enough to know honey farming can be a sticky business.

He said, "When I first got into bees, honey was like $.28 a pound."

Over the years, prices have slowly increased, and then flew-up in the early 80s, because of a federal honey loan program. That ended, and prices fell to around $.50 a pound.

"Actually we were slowly going broke," remembered Coy.

In the 90s, beekeepers made a buzz at the United States Commerce Department. They claimed China was dumping honey into the U.S. at below-market prices. Federal leaders agreed, and implemented a tariff. Both China and Argentina got a sting when farmers there were accused of the same thing in 2001.

This time duties and tariffs were implemented. The federal government also banned Chinese honey, because it was laced with a non-approved antibiotic. Those moves helped inflate prices once again.

The average market price currently is about $1.25. Market analysts expect it to stabilize around $1.00. That's about double what it used to be. Those higher prices mean some beekeepers' businesses have been saved, just like the Coy Family's honey farm.

"At a dollar, I can do pretty good. If it's back at $.50, some day we won't be here," said Coy.