Updated: Apr 2, 2020
As much of the nation remains locked down indefinitely amid the coronavirus crisis, for growers and beekeepers, it’s still business as usual. With effective social distancing practices, both groups can carry out their jobs without much risk of becoming infected, unlike healthcare or retail workers. But that doesn’t mean growers and beekeepers are safe from other impacts of the virus.
The need to produce nutritious foods within our borders is substantially heightened in the face of a global crisis. The country needs beekeepers and growers to keep producing food, especially since almonds and honey are both excellent staple foods to stock up on during these uncertain times.
Almond market outlook
Unlike many food producers, almond growers can play the waiting game without fear of their product spoiling, in the hope that the market will rebound as the world improves containment of the virus. For those looking to move inventory now, the long shelf life of almonds also plays to their advantage, as consumers seek to stockpile foods that can ride out the duration of the crisis.
With Chinese ports closed and the country on lockdown, the world’s 2nd largest buyer of California almonds is unable to receive new shipments. Almond sellers looking to offload an excess of inventory may shift their sights back to the domestic market, where increased supply will drive down the price of products like almond milk and butter. Though prices dropped from $2.87 per pound to $2.52 in early February, Blue Diamond reports that increased retail sales have more than made up for the difference.
Honey market outlook
Reports of beekeepers in China unable to work their hives during the lockdown may devastate Chinese bees, but it could be good news for American beekeepers. With a diminished supply of honey imported from China (and other major exporters, most likely), US beekeepers should enjoy a bump in honey prices this year. It also doesn’t hurt that an infected patient made headlines claiming that he overcame the virus with a hearty diet of whiskey and honey.
I can’t imagine a scenario where US beekeepers would be barred from working their hives, especially given the heightened need for pollination of key crops. But then again, I couldn’t have imagined a global health crisis leading to a lockdown of this scale.
Though many commercial beekeepers operate in remote areas where the potential for social interaction is slim, they still rely on a consistent supply chain to deliver inputs for the bees like feed and treatments. Beekeepers who’ve stockpiled enough supplies to last through the year should be in for a successful season. Those who can’t afford to purchase in bulk might have to scrape by with hungry bees and high mite counts.
As the coronavirus continues to reshape the world around us, the demand for nutritious foods with a long shelf life will flourish. If our situation worsens, the need to protect domestic food security will be greater than ever.
No matter how bad the virus gets, I’d be shocked if any almond trees go unpollinated next season. If I’m wrong (let’s pray I’m not), we’ll have far more to worry about than almond production.