Canadian beekeepers produced 95.3 million pounds of honey in 2015, up 11.4% from 2014 and at its highest level in nine years.
Statistics Canada reports there were 8,533 beekeepers in 2015, 365 fewer than a year earlier.
The total value of honey rose 10.9% year-on-year to C$232.0 million (US$171 million) as a result of increased production with the average price stable at C$2.43 (US$1.79) a pound.
On average, each colony had a yield of 132 lbs. of honey, 9 lbs. more than in 2014.
The number of colonies rose 3.6% from 696,252 to 721,106 – attributable to favorable weather conditions that reduced winter losses, particularly in the Prairie provinces.
Honey production in Alberta, the top producer in Canada, was 42.8 million lbs., up 20.4% from 35.5 million lbs. in 2014. Yields rose from 125 lbs. a colony to 145 lbs.
In Saskatchewan, honey production increased from 16.5 million lbs. in 2014 to 18.8 million lbs. as a result of more colonies and higher yields.
In Manitoba, although yields were lower, production rose from 14.1 million lbs. in 2014 to 16.0 million lbs. because of an increase in the number of colonies.
The Canadian Press news agency quotes Canadian Honey Council executive director Rod Scarlett as saying the figures show the industry is successful and is growing.
“It really is a positive message,” Scarlett says.
He says Canada has been bucking the trend of declines in bee numbers compared to other countries.
“We have been one of the few areas that stand out, in part because the beekeepers are more well-versed in best management practises and how to handle problems that crop up,” Scarlett says.
The industry is also working on an action plan with the federal government to promote bee health including ways to reduce pesticide exposure in and outside the hive.
Scarlett says the biggest challenge is competition for the key U.S. market from Argentina, which has also had a bumper crop of honey that is affecting prices.
Canada exports up to 70% of its production, mainly to the U.S.
Scarlett says urban beekeeping is a growing trend, with more municipalities allowing people to try their hand with a hive or two.
There are beekeeper associations in major cities such as Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto. The Toronto group has more than 600 members.
“It is definitely not a commercial situation,” Scarlett says. “Some are doing it for the environment. Some are doing it for the honey. Some are doing it because it is a great hobby.”