Historic: Honey Marketing - Part 2

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BOP Club
The NZ Honey Producers Co-operative Association (HPA)

The HPA had its beginnings in Taranaki in 1914, a time when that region was rapidly growing to be a significant area of honey production for NZ.

Wm. Lenz, a big beekeeper from Masterton, had set up 450 hives in Taranaki several years earlier. When he decided to sell them off, there weren’t any Taranaki beekeepers large enough to take the lot - so they formed a co-op to buy the hives and distribute them in smaller lots! Several sideline beekeepers took the opportunity to go full time, adding to the growing beekeeping industry there.

The HPA started to provide a range of services for members - not only the marketing/sale of their honey, but foundation production, equipment importing, woodware making, contract extracting - a full range of services.

The honey was mostly marketed through a single agent in the UK. Advances (money paid on the honey before it got to the UK) were followed by a bonus payout to reflect the final, actualised price for the honey.

But even by, say, 1915 or so, New Zealand was producing more honey than the inhabitants would consume. It had to be exported, often at a lower price, else the local market would be flooded with supplies, prices would be cut and it all got worse.

But beekeepers did want some controls on the export sales - quality measures for the most part. And the Govt did listen, and created the Export Honey Control Board with powers to manage exports. Some beekeepers claimed the Board was obstructive and restrictive and should not be getting in the way of their doing business! It does appear that there was a lot of cross-over of people as HPA directors and also being on the Export Honey Control Board…

The late 1920s clearly showed how much damage large crops of honey could do, wth price cutting being the name of the game.

Both the 1927/28 and the 1928/29 honey crops were some of the largest crops ever produced. While a good percentage of the country’s beekeepers were willing to supply the HPA with some of their crop, the best returns were from packing it and selling it at the door and locally. So that’s what the beekeepers, but the over-supplied local market almost immediately sent the price of honey to all time lows.

And remember - this was a time of economic depression generally…

The 1929/30 crop was the worst for 15 years - and it came on the heels of two record high production seasons. That low season gave the HPA time to get rid of some of the surpluses it had accumulated. Remember, beekeepers had already been paid advances on the honey - but the world was at a time of falling commodity prices and it was now achieving less than the beekeepers had gotten as advances!

Immediately prior to the 1932 NBA Conference, the HPA placed itself into voluntary liquidation. It had stabilised NZ honey prices to some extent for about 15 years, through some very rough world economic times. Ultimately, the HPA’s own members competing against it, especially on the local market, led to its demise.

Remember those over-paid advances that the HPA paid beekeepers? Well, that liquidity was provided to the HPA by the English agent. The debt went with the liquidated company - and the shareholder beekeepers for the next decade would bear the costs related to repayment of the advances…

So the Honey Producers Co-operative era of honey marketing - for much of the time with all the other services to production - lasted from 1914 to 1932.