China was the world’s top honey exporter in 2019 with a value of USD 235.3 mln (11.8% of the global exports)
China’s honey consumption ranks first in the world. China is the world’s largest bee keeping, honey production and export country. China’s vast territory, rich nectar source, large population, with an increasing living standard, guarantee that the domestic honey market potential is huge. The current per capita consumption is a little over 250 gr p.a., while that for Austria is more than 1.3 kg p.a.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China’s honey production has been increasing steadily over the years. I was 542,500 mln mt in 2018. In recent years, the domestic market share is growing. The following table lists the China’s honey exports and the proportion of domestic sales in the period 2001-2016 (units: 10,000 mt).
|Year||Total Output||Export||Proportion of Export||Domestic
This table shows that, in 2001, honey production was 252,000 mt, export 107,000 mt and about 145,000 mt were for the domestic market of consumption. By 2016, the yield of honey was 700,000 mt, and 128,300 mt were exported. China exported USD 235.015 mln worth of honey in 2019; down 5.7%.
the volume of the domestic consumption was about 400,000 mt, which is 2.75 times of the domestic sales in 2001. If each person buys 0.5 kg honey, over 1,300,000,000 Chinese people need over 650,000 mt, so the market potential is stunning!
China has a number of top honey brands. It is not easy to rank them in a sensible order. Most brands are specialized in a particular type of honey, e.g, Baihua’s bramble honey, or Laoshan’s locust honey. The top 5 brands according to a Chinese consumer site are:
More and more bees
While the global bee keeping industry is worrying about the increasing number of bees, the number of swarms in China has increased steadily during the past years. The following table shows the number of swarms in the period 2006 – 2017.
The number of swarms for 2018 was roughtly the same as for 2017.
Miyun includes the largest beekeeping area in Beijing, with 2,072 bee farmers tending 115,000 colonies, which account for 44% of the city’s total. The district will add another 5,000 colonies in 2021.
In spite of the negative media coverage, China still exports considerable volumes of honey. The following table shows the exports to the main destinations in 2017.
|Country||Value (USD)||Volume (kg)|
An unfortunate aspect of the Chinese honey industry is that its lucrative nature has also made it a popular arena for fake products. Even worse is that part of this fake or adulterated honey has made its way on the international market, seriously harming the image of honey from China.
Because of the many fake honey products in China, quite a few Chinese prefer to buy imported honey. The following table shows the import figures of the Chinese Customs regarding the 2013-2016 period.
|Year||Import (KG)||Amount (USD)|
|This honey is respectively from New Zealand (Manuka), Australia, Germany, Thailand, France, Russia, Malaysia, Chile, Italy, Portugal, Swiss, UK, Spain, Canada, Greece, Taiwan Region, Kyrgyzstan, Brazil, Denmark, Mexico, Hungary, Poland|
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Peter Peverelli is active in and with China since 1975 and regularly travels to the remotest corners of that vast nation. He is a co-author of a major book introducing the cultural drivers behind China’s economic success.