Cheap honey products might be corn syrup

The honey market in Australia is going through one of its toughest periods. A shortage of honey has pushed up prices, leading some companies to import produce from overseas in order to sell more cheaply on supermarket shelves.

But the trend has caused confusion in the market with some imported produce being deceptively labeled. Consumers who buy such products may not be aware they are buying imported honey. In fact, they may not be buying honey at all.

Executive Director of the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council, Trevor Weatherhead, told Dynamic Business that Victoria Honey, imported from Turkey, was one of four products potentially in breach of labelling laws. He said tests completed overseas suggested such products were not real honey and were most likely to be corn syrup. Formal complaints have been lodged with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

“You look at the retailers’ shelves,” Mr Weatherhead said. “A kilo of honey is selling at $8 to $11 and this stuff was being put on the market from $5 to $6 a kilo. The public is being duped into buying something they think is honey. It deprives Australian bee keepers of sales.”

Mr Weatherhead said conditions in the industry were tough with the Australian honey crop down about 50 per cent as a result of droughts, bushfires and high temperatures.

One industry player, Honey Australia, plans to tough out the current honey shortage without resorting to importing produce. Director Nick Maiolo said it was important for his business to source honey locally. While this meant costs would be high, Mr Maiolo said he believed in supporting local bee keepers.

“We have to adhere to organic standards which are quite stringent and we have to adhere to Australian made license laws. We are affiliated with the Australian made logo, so there’s conditions that you have to adhere to,” he told Dynamic Business.

“If we did look at importing honey, we would reduce our manufacturing costs by 50 per cent, however we believe in supporting our local bee keepers, and making a premium product that is 100 per cent Australian honey.”

Conditions in the honey industry are tough for up and coming competitors with major players like Capilano and Beechworth possessing the market clout to endure the higher honey prices. If the honey flow drives up even more, it may lead their competitors to change their business strategies.    

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