Honey flows again after rain

Shoppers stung by a shortage of honey can expect to see more liquid gold on store shelves soon.

Weather woes have caused problems for apiarists across the country and supermarkets have struggled to keep up with consumer demand.

WAFarmers beekeepers section president Stephen Fewster said West Australian honey had started to flow again and packers were trying to catch up.

Capilano, the State's biggest honey packer, expects its Wescobee brand to be back in full supply by the end of the month.

The company's WA branch manager Michael Bellman said unseasonal rainfall last spring destroyed flowers, which affected the summer crop.

"WA normally produces about 2000 tonnes a year (of honey)," he said. "Capilano receives about 1200 to 1500 tonnes a year - at the end of June that figure was 900 tonnes."

One of the State's biggest honey producers, David Leyland, who has been in the industry for more than 30 years, said his decision to travel long distances to honey flows paid off and protected him from shortages afflicting the rest of the industry.

His 700 hives produce about 100 tonnes of honey a year, sold mostly to Capilano, which has increased the price it pays to beekeepers. "Capilano's just bumped the price up for this month only to $6/kg and it's never been in those areas ever since I've been a beekeeper," Mr Leyland said.

His Bees Neez Apiaries is based in Beechina in the Perth Hills. Travelling to places more than nine hours away helped the business have a "really good year".

"I've set myself up to travel long distances efficiently," he said. "A lot of the industry thinks I run too big a truck and overcapitalise, but it enables me to go a long distance cheaply to get to honey flows."

Amid concerns about the future of beekeeping Capilano plans to run supply workshops to try to increase the number of commercial apiarists in WA.

Mr Leyland, 49, said that young people were no longer attracted to the industry "because it's too hard for too little return".

"It's a typical primary production - I think the farmers' average age is about 170 and I think they've been that age since I started," he said.

"Everyone nowadays works for money and money only and they don't consider all the other benefits you might get out of an occupation.

"The hard physical labour we have to do for a pretty pathetic return in the price of honey means you'd have to be either pretty stupid or pretty special to do it."

The West Australian

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