Honey Production in the US

Marek Kwasnica
Posted on Feb 2, 2020

Photo credit: Scott Hogan

Much newsprint ink has been spent bemoaning the plight of honeybees around the globe, with various pressures ranging from climate change, novel pests to pesticides. And while there is great reason the general public to be concerned for our fuzzy striped friends, what is the outlook for the estimated 120,000 beekeepers in the United States? This exploratory data analysis examines the honey production industry in the US, and looks at trends affecting beekeepers at the national and state level. Reporting by the USDA Research service and the National Honey Board indicates that Americans consume roughly 1.3 pounds per capita annually, but 61% honey consumed in the US is imported from abroad. (National Honey Board Industry Press Kit 2014) Is it still worth it to produce honey domestically? And how will changing climate affect that outlook?

The Data

Kaggle dataset regarding honey production (found here) was sourced from the USDA Statistics Service, and contains information pertaining to number of colonies, honey yield per colony (in pounds), and average sale price per pound for the years 1998 -2012. Temperature data (found here) was curated by Berkeley Earth, with global data averaged into monthly averages at national, state/province, city levels up to 2013.

The App

The app is organized into four tab sets for ease of navigation. The first tab provides a quick national overview of honey production for the years 1998-2012 in three static graphs (see Insights below). The second tab allows the user to inspect a state of their choosing to see in there are outliers to the general trends. The third tab is devoted to examining honey yields and the effect of average yearly temperature. Here the user can select a year and see yields represented on a color heat-map. The fourth tab contains the final clean datasets.

Insights

In the graph above we see that from a national perspective, the total amount of honey produced is declining steadily. While we observe significant spikes and falls in year to year production typical of the unpredictable nature of agricultural products, honey production has declined over 25% over the course of years. One could presume that this could be due to falling consumer demand, but in the graph below we see that the average price for honey has more than doubled over this time frame.

 We also see that the total value of honey (shown here as the average price multiplied the total amount produced) has doubled, indicating that the value is trailing price rather than volume, which is good news for honey producers.

But is this true at the state level?

Below is an examination of two of the largest honey producers at this time, California and North Dakota.

Honey Production in California

We observe that in California, the value of honey production experiences large fluctuations year-to-year, with peaks and valleys corresponding to those seen in the amount of honey produced, and largely independent of the increasing price. Of particular note are is 2003, where a boom year for honey production aligned with a 5-year price maximum to produce a record making year of honey value ($45million), above the typical yearly average ~$22million. We see a similar spike in 2010, another boom year of honey production, magnified by a steady rise in prices.

Honey Production in North Dakota

In North Dakota we see a different story. Here honey production has been more steady year to year, even exhibiting a slight increase in production over the course of the time period. However, the value of honey production follows the price of honey. Notably we can observe that 2000 was an above average year for honey production, but low prices suppressed the total value. This is repeated in 2005. We can see the opposite effect of high prices in 2002 and 2003 making up for below average production, resulting in a 100% higher valuation over the year 2000.

Future Work

In the future I’d like to expand the scope of this project to incorporate more weather data such as average rainfall and snowfall and number of rainy days, as well as look at colony losses. In addition, I’d like to take a more granular look and examine the data on a quarterly basis, so as to be able to seasonal effects.

It would also be informative to look at the national trends of other sugar sources, particularly maple syrup and agave, that may compete in the market as honey.

 

 

 

 

In North Dakota we see a different story. Here honey production has been more steady year to year, even exhibiting a slight increase in production over the course of the time period. However, the value of honey production follows the price of honey. Notably we can observe that 2000 was an above average year for honey production, but low prices suppressed the total value. This is repeated in 2005. We can see the opposite effect of high prices in 2002 and 2003 making up for below average production, resulting in a 100% higher valuation over the year 2000.

 

Future Work

In the future I’d like to expand the scope of this project to incorporate more weather data such as average rainfall and snowfall and number of rainy days, as well as look at colony losses. In addition, I’d like to take a more granular look and examine the data on a quarterly basis, so as to be able to seasonal effects.

 

It would also be informative to look at the national trends of other sugar sources, particularly maple syrup and agave, that may compete in the market as honey.

About Author

Marek Kwasnica

Marek Kwasnica

Marek is currently a data science fellow at NYC Data Science Academy. He has several years experience in biomedical engineering research. He holds a Masters of Engineering in Biological Engineering from Cornell University. Marek is passionate about applying...
View all posts by Marek Kwasnica >

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