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I'm back, back on the web, at least, but I'm still in Central Ontario at the
cottage that has been our family's summer place for the last 100 years and more.
My mother, my kids, and their kids and were here until yesterday, and now only
Jonathan and his family and I are left until my niece comes to get the place
ready for my sister and her entourage.
last entry in this diary was on
June 20th, the day I set out for Ontario. At that time, I made a
decision to take a month off from this daily habit, and I've managed to stick it
out. Surprisingly, I haven't actually missed my daily time at the keyboard, and
I have been very busy doing nothing important, but I figure it is time to get
back to the diary again.
last month, lots has happened in my world, but not much in the way of
beekeeping. Nonetheless, I do keep my ear to the ground, and have several
interesting bee matters to mention here as I get caught up.
few years back, some of us saw nicotinics insecticides coming onto the scene
and foresaw a disaster in the making. We were told that these
chemicals were very powerful tools against target insects at extremely low
doses, but told also that -- somehow -- they would be harmless to bees and
other essential insects intimately sharing the same ecosystem.
Although a few studies to examine the effects on bees were required by
regulators, and were performed prior to approval for use in the
environment, the work was funded by the products' suppliers.
Strangely, from the perspective of Canadian beekeepers, it was the then head
of CAPA -- The
Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturalists -- that took the
chemical companies' money in Canada, and signed off regarding threats to
bees after a small, basic, study that, in retrospect, looks like a high
school science project.
After examining what was being done, and how, many of us on the outside
concluded that the studies were designed to look serious, look
reasonably diligent, and be sufficient to satisfy the regulators, but also to
be very cursory, and we suspected that they were calculated not to really
dig for -- or
even accidentally find -- trouble, particularly if the effects on beneficial
insects were subtle and not immediate.
About that time, I started a
site dedicated to the unfolding problem, but, as others became aware of
the threat and took up the cause, I have let it slide. Nonetheless,
our fears have been born out, and systemic insecticides have been approved
in North America.
a recent article by the well-respected and careful Dr. Eric Mussen. (It's a
PDF, so you will need
is home now, and reports that everything in Swalwell is green and lush.
Our grass was recently cut, and the cats are glad to see her. In Muskoka,
I am alone for the day. Jon and Sarah and the kids have driven north to
Sudbury to visit my sister and Mom before they drive home to Rhode Island
tomorrow. The sun is shining, and I will sit on the veranda and try to
remember all the things I need to get done, then catch up on my chores.
Mail has piled up at home, and Ellen is faxing me bills to pay and other matters
|This came in a while
back, and I have just gotten around to thinking about it. I'll
also call the Mid US Honey Price Line at 763-658-4193 and report
Sent: Monday, July 12, 2004
Subject: Australian Honey Prices latest
I have been waiting for you to
come back on line, but we have had a nasty surprise as Capilano have
slashed prices paid to the beekeeper by approx 30%. Highest price
per Kilogram $3.50 for top grade Yellow Box, Red Gum $3.20 Canola
$2.80 and most good flavoured Eucalypt honey $2.90 to $3.15. Honey
Quotas will be enforced and tightened and an audit of honey plants
to examine those that Qualify to food standards.
Only 3 cents per kilogram
presently offered for honey that comes from accredited factories.
Other independent packers will not buy as they are scared of being
caught with high priced honey on a falling market. So we are
presently looking at uncertain times.
What the beekeepers need is a
world wide point to compare prices and forecast possible large crops
coming on the market. I have looked extensively on the internet and
cannot find live figures. I believe the packers are now playing
games with the beekeepers, as locally I cannot see a lot of domestic
honey and large areas are still in drought. The obvious thing is the
public have stopped buying honey due to the imported honey being
such low quality and different to the nice thick eucalypt honey
customers are accustomed to. Huge amounts of imported honey
has damaged the local market.
I'm assuming these
are Australian dollars. If so, today, $1.00 Australian is $US0.709
or $0.9368 CAD. In that case, it appears, from the comments above,
that the $2.80 canola honey is fetching in Aus translates to $US1.98. That is
per kilogram, not per pound as I had initially assumed. Fortunately, a
reader corrected me. (It just goes to show how easy it is to get
the wrong impression).
numbers reported translate to a maximum of $US1.03
for the special varieties, and 90˘ US per pound for white (I assume
Australian canola honey is water white, like ours), and I must say that price
understand, also, that markets vary country by country, and that the
costs of production can vary widely. I have been led to understand
that Australia has, for some time now, had some measures in place which
both raise the demand and the price for their product, and the cost of
production. I have no idea how much higher the production costs
are there. I have been pressing for implementation of similar
measures in North America to ensure that the current prices do not sink
to the lowest common level. It appears, however that the
Australian quality measures are not protecting them as well as they have
I also, somehow,
had the impression that Aus and NZ had some rules to exclude foreign
honey from their home markets based on their claimed AFB-free
status, the thinking being that the imported honey can contain AFB
spores that might escape into the environment though bees robbing
discarded consumer packs at dumps and from bees robbing empty drums,
scenario is suspected of being the source of the rAFB that showed up
at Burnaby Canada (near a packing plant) and a similar outbreak in
Florida. Both outbreaks subsequently spread far an wide, so I
consider such fears quite reasonable. I gather, though, that,
even if the home markets are protected, that Australian beekeepers,
like Canadians depend on export and that the export market sets the
price to producers. I also seem to recall that Argentine honey
was found in the Australian home market, so perhaps my understanding
glance that the chart from Yahoo! (right) also shows that Australian
currency has been strengthening over the last several years -- by 45%,
from a low of about about 55˘US to around 80˘US at the the peak -- and
that alone will explain considerably reduced returns to Australian
producers. I also seem to recall having read of an
free trade agreement having been signed recently...
Please tell me
email, or in
HoneyBeeWorld Forum, which has
been recently showing signs of new life.
called the Hotline just now, and heard that as of July 20, the Dakotas have been
very dry. Recently two loads of white honey went for $1.30 US (~$1.72 CAD)
and packer enquires at are coming at around $1.25. The Dakota crop is
doubtful at this time, and apparently California was a bust for white honey this
year, so beekeepers are holding out. All in all, if these prices hold or
strengthen, things should be good for beekeepers in the US again this year.
you have ANY news, from any area of the world, not just the central USA, please
call 763-658-4193 and leave a message. Your info will be shared with
fellow beekeepers so they know what the current price is, and thus,
hopefully, not sell too cheap through ignorance and weaken the market for
all. Hotline info also helps beekeepers tell banks with certainty what
the current prices are. Bankers who don't know what honey is worth are
inclined to squeeze beekeepers who have inventories to sell when they
perhaps should not. Beekeepers who are squeezed or panic and dump
their honey on the market wreck the market for themselves and for others.
|The government consists of a gang of
men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no
special talent for the business of government; they have only a
talent for getting and holding office. -- H. L. Mencken
the Australian situation, things sound grim there. Apparently Capilano has
gotten into trouble, attacking markets too vigorously and upset the order of
things and gentlemen's agreements that allowed regulators and competitors to
overlook minor transgressions and the hounds are now unleashed. Time will
tell. A sea change in regulation and pricing structure was bound to come,
but recent conflicts have shortened the timeline and changed the rules.
Capilano's excursion into Canadian markets have certainly upset the Canadian co-ops' plans
for the Canadian marketplace and drawn into question their survival in the long
run. Beemaid chose to ignore lucrative export opportunities
and to try to keep and expand market share in Canada. That cost them
member support, and a big chunk of the market share they tried to buy with
members' valuable honey was scooped up by Capilano using cheap third world
honey. I gather the Canadian co-ops are in distress, as I'm finding AHPC (a firm which
holds about $30,000 of my funds against my will, and without permitting me
voting privileges) somewhat rude and
peremptory to me lately. I'll share a letter illustrating the rudeness
with you next session.
Today : Sunny. Wind
becoming south 20 km/h near noon. High 28. UV index 8 or very high. /
Tonight : Clear. Wind southeast 20 km/h becoming light near midnight. Low 13.
Normals for the period : Low 10. High 24.
and Sarah (his wife), and kids left for Providence this morning. It's a
12-hour drive, more or less, taking the freeways all the way. They expect
to be home by evening. We had discovered a vacuum leak in his Volvo the
other day and found that the oil sump was dry after their trip up -- off the
dipstick! -- so we have been a bit concerned about the engine, but their recent
trip to Sudbury and back (250 miles) did not result in noticeable oil
consumption, so hopefully, the damage was not permanent.
|From an observant US
Great to have you back on line with your diary. We (I am sure I
speak about people like myself but do not even know) have missed it
but also respect your need for time away.
I just have to point out an
observation about your reporter from Australia and the conversion of
the price quoted. The conversion of $1.98 to US is per kilogram
instead of pound. Dividing by 2.2 would put the price per pound at
Enjoy the rest of your time
away and please continue to be an advocate for our industry.
Goes to show how easy
it is to make mistakes. I was berating the Brazilians for
apparently mistaking the US prices per pound for prices per Kilogram and
pricing their product accordingly. Then I made the same sort of
On the question of prices, asked
yesterday, it occurs to me that the USDA publishes
The National Honey
Report monthly. The
Honey Board also offers some sources.
Anyone know of sources for
|Bob Harrison writes,
I commend Joe Graham (editor
I have before for giving all sides of a subject equal time.
The article " Examining the Chinese Chloramphenicol honey
Contamination Issue from the Chinese point of View" in the August
issue of the American Bee Journal (vol. 144 no. 8) will not be
received well by American beekeepers but we are all beekeepers and
as such we have got beekeeping in common.
Actually I respect the Apicultural Science Association of China (ASAC)
quite a bit for the work they are doing in many areas.
When the average beekeeper reads the article he/she quickly sees the
door is about to open and the flood of low priced Chinese is headed
for the U.S.. It is also interesting that on page 632 the Chinese
say around 20,000 metric tons of ultrafiltered honey have already
flowed into the U.S. What happened to the U.F. honey which was
ultrafiltered to remove chloramphenicol which entered the U.S.?
Today I noticed that there has been
some interest in my " Bee Stings from a
Beekeeper's Perspective" Page and looked at it again for the first time in a
while. As always there are minor improvements to be made, and I tuned it
up a bit.
Sarah, my niece, and I tidied up
the cottage and rearranged the furniture. The day is cooler, and we swam
Today : Sunny. Wind becoming south 20
km/h this afternoon. High 31. UV index 8 or very high. /
Tonight : Cloudy periods. Wind south 20 km/h becoming northwest 20 this evening.
Low 12. /
Normals for the period : Low 10. High 24.
I am alone this morning, for
the first time in a month or so.
I received word last night that
Jon and family got home to Rhode Island without incident. The kids, though
were confused as to where exactly they are and where they were going, apparently
expecting that their cottage bedroom would be in Rhode Island when they arrived,
and that Chris, their uncle from Alberta whom they had enjoyed in Muskoka, might
be at their home -- along with their cat.
|The world honey
price discussion continues on BEE-L...
Here's the problem. The planet
is one big transparent market for "fungible commodities" like honey.
(And if you sell your honey as a "fungible commodity", whose fault
Buyers and packers of honey are
ready, willing, and able to source their honey from anywhere on the
planet, so any honey for sale in bulk anywhere tends to impact the
price paid for honey everywhere else. The net effect of the Chinese
honey being offered for sale anywhere is to tend to depress prices
everywhere. The net effect of ANY large supply of honey being
offered for sale anywhere is to tend to depress prices everywhere.
The problem is that buyers and
packers have more information than producers, and many producers
don't even try to share information on what offers they have
received. Producers and producer co-ops are being fools in thinking
that they gain anything by keeping bids secret rather than
leveraging the unavoidable transparency of the market to their own
The net result is that the
lowest price that any large producer or co-op will accept suddenly
becomes the highest price offered to anyone else. If one thinks
about that for longer than a millisecond, it should become
blindingly obvious to even the casual observer that it would be in
the best interest of producers to not only know what others are
being offered for their honey, but also to quickly inform everyone
else of what bids they have received.
To read the entire
Calgary Today : Sunny this
morning then a mix of sun and cloud with 60 percent chance of showers this
afternoon. Risk of a thunderstorm. High 22. UV index 7 or high. /
Tonight : Cloudy. 60 percent chance of showers this evening with the risk of
a thunderstorm. Clearing overnight. Wind north 20 km/h becoming light this
evening. Low 8. /
Normals for the period : Low 10. High 24.
My name's Umberto, and I write from
Trento (Nord-Italy). I am a retired and in my free time I am a
beekeeper. I looking for a farm to visit for about 1 or 2 mounts. I see
your web site and I hope you can help me to find it. If is possible can
you write me some address where I can telephone or write my reference? I
am available to work in this farm, so I can improve my English, how you
will just understand, is no very good.
Tanks for your attentions.
|This came in this
morning. I'm not naming names until I hear a more official
report... So far I have not found it on the news.
Was informed today that the
double murder/suicide in St Paul, was in fact (a well-known
commercial beekeeper), who reportedly killed his wife and youngest
daughter (first year university) and then himself.....
Only other info I heard, was
(he) was put on medicine January and again in May, am speculating it
was likely for depression, but don't know.
I sold several items
to the beekeeper in question last fall and this spring. At one
point he had asked me to sell 1,000 of his hives for him anonymously,
and I mentioned them here, but he changed his mind several days later.
I found him to be an earnest, straightforward person, and am sorry to
hear this news.
The story is true,
here is a link to an article with details. It is indeed
|I promised to share
a rather peremptory letter from the Alberta Co-op. I wrote to this
employee's supervisor, but have received no response.
We still have 83 juice drums
here that you were going to pick up last year. Are you still
interested in them? If so please advise if you want us to ship them
to you COLLECT or arrange pick up by the end of this month. After
that they will be forfeited and we will dispose as we see fit.
Who owns the co-op
The reasons why the
drums were not picked up are the subject of another article when I have
time, but basically come down to being due to the fact that I had
planned to pick them up when delivering honey, but my delivery was
refused because I was a few days late. That was due to the
unusually cold weather in January which prevented me from getting it out
of the extracting warehouse. I couldn't convince the owners to
start up their machines and work in the cold.
Have I written
about this before? Not sure, but this latest email from AHPC
seems to be just more of the arbitrary actions I have seen from the
co-op lately. They have $30,000 of my money, allow me no vote,
and have confiscated funds from my account held in trust by them
against my express objections. Moreover, they have never
accounted for another 100+ wax drums they got from me years ago, in
spite of repeated promised to do so. In spite of their own
shortcomings in regard to drums, they are grinding me over a small
shortage in my inventory. As for the drums I have at AHPC, I
could see their asking me to please hurry up, or advising me that
they will have to charge me storage in the future, but the approach
they have taken is nothing short of abusive in my view, particularly
in light of the fact that they have also confiscated my money.
I've told them, "Let's just settle up all around and let's be
quits", and get an arbitrator if necessary, but they are not
interested in such a simple solution.
The co-ops have
also, recently, failed to deliver on their promises of price to
members who delivered honey on trust, then counted on them to keep
their word. I guess somebody really should sue the co-op and
the directors, but, so far, nobody has the stomach for such
nastiness. I, personally, hate having to resort to such
measures, but maybe they will push someone too far. So far,
members have confined their protests to simply shipping their crop
elsewhere. Although some (many) have exclusive contracts that
require that 100% of the crop goes to the co-op, I, and some others
do not, because we have never renounced the old Quota 88 agreement --
in spite of attempts by various boards to get us to sign agreements
to do so -- and are therefore free to ship whereever we please. The only
penalty to us is loss of quota, and quota is now worth nothing
spite of contracting 100% of crop, many co-op members held out this
year and sold into the open market in protest against the price
cutting that Beemaid had been undertaking to attempt to gain market
share. This price cutting was obviously going to affect the
return, and anyone with eyes could see that Beemaid would fail to
meet its promises sooner or later. I suppose the reasoning is
that if Beemaid can break promises to members, then members can
break promises to Beemaid. All in all, it is not a nice
situation, and IMO will only get worse. I've suggested
solutions, but they have been rejected out of hand. I'd like
to get my money out of there and forget they exist. Within a
decade, my guess is that they won't.
Should AHPC be called
a co-op, or an unco-op? What do you think?
Today : Sunny.
Becoming cloudy this morning with 30 percent chance of showers this
afternoon. Wind becoming north 20 km/h near noon. High 18. UV index 7 or
high. /Tonight : Cloudy periods. 30 percent chance of showers. Wind north 20 km/h
becoming light near midnight. Low 7. /Normals for the period : Low 10. High 24.
time flies. It's almost August.
booked my flight home on the 5th. I hate to return, but Ellen is having a
big party for her 60th, and flying to China a day or two later. Then, on
the 17th, I have a meeting for the project I have undertaken with Lakeland
College. Besides, I need to get some work done around the home place.
listed the last of the cattle -- 39 steers and a heifer -- on the
auction today, but the bids were so bad that the auction was called off
before our lot came up. Hope things get better, but there is a glut on the
market, not that you can tell that from the beef prices in stores around here.
Steaks are going for well over $20 per kg locally.
almost all our cattle now, and, on the face of it, have lost a fair bit of money
on the deal. We won't know how much, for a while though, since taxes
figure heavily into the calculations, and the effect of government programs is
yet to be calculated. If nothing else, the project has been educational
and taken me more into the mainstream of agriculture in our district.
Having seen this thing from the inside, though, I have no idea how the people
who make their living in cattle will survive.
is a huge industry in Alberta and in Canada. Recent events are of the sort
that favour companies with deep pockets over the family farm, and, unless
something is done to even the field, we will see a concentration of power in the
hands of multi-nationals as a result. These huge firms have the
diversification, both financially and geographically, not only to survive, but
also to profit from such events. The money that the small operators lose goes
straight into their coffers, as does much of government assistance aimed at the
Attempts by government to help the small guys have largely flowed through to
assist banks, suppliers, and packers -- larger businesses -- but not gone far
enough to save the intended recipients. As we all know the farmers gets to
keep only the last dollar coming in, after all the bills are paid. If
income is short, losses come directly from the farmers' equity. The result
of all this pain will be more people leaving the country for the cities, and
further erosion of the rural backbone of the country. Frankly, I have no
clue how the cattle guys have held on as long as they have, yet when I go to the
auction, the people still smile and carry on, even while they watch tens of
thousands of dollars drain from their account.
to the co-op email quoted above, Derrick called Ellen today and told her that
the drums would not be confiscated, and that the drum and all the other issues
would be straightened out together. I had emailed him, asking if he was
aware what employees were emailing to people.
Derrick has always been a straight shooter and extremely helpful. I
have the feeling that his hands are tied by the board, and that if he were
in charge, things would be running far better. He is a positive,
patient and capable expediter -- and a diplomat. Apparently, the board
(bless their souls) is waiting on documentary proof that Ellen is turning
sixty so they can justify a speedier payout of our account (not that they
intent to just pay us out and be done). Odd how they stand on some
little detail like this, when the board can alter other policy on a whim and
without notice to members. To me it is an indication of a bad culture,
small, petty thinking, and a further indicator of ongoing disaster for the
Today : Sunny
with cloudy periods. High 21. UV index 7 or high. /Tonight : A few clouds. Low 10.
Normals for the period : Low 10. High 24
|Here's a well
written opinion piece from a regular reader...
Glad to hear you've been enjoying summer, yes it did arrive
finally. Good to have you back too.
I was wondering how your cattle were doing, -- or perhaps as you
mentioned -- your balance sheet. I'm sorry to hear that is was a
losing venture apart from the tax savings.
faith, but doubt is what gets you an education.
-- Wilson Mizner
I was raised on a mixed cattle and grain farm which my brother
has taken over responsibility and is now mostly focused on cattle.
This entire region is focused heavily on cattle production and which
has granted my home town the distinction of being the cattle capital
of Manitoba. I share your sentiments about who loses and who
prospers during such cataclysmic events. Today's news
announced Lakeside Packers will expand to kill an extra 1000
animals per day, makes good sense when they'll be able to buy, ahem
steal, all the fat cattle they can process for rock bottom prices,
and sell the prime cuts to the US for sky high prices. My
understanding (somewhat cynical) of the open border to boneless cuts
of beef under 30 months of age is a way for these American packers
(IBP and Cargill) to profit and to provide the affluent beef
consumers in the US with a larger supply of prime cuts such as
tenderloin and rib eye steak which are always in short supply.
I would like to know what is really crossing the border. Last
Producer has an article regarding R-CALF supporters who own fat
cattle in Canadian feedlots and which are being given precious
slaughter priority over Canadian-owned fat cattle at Cargill near
We haven't seen the financial impact just yet. Farmers have a way
of hanging on by their finger nails. However, if feeders fetch 30
cents a pound this fall, how is anyone going to get by? Lets do the
math, 175 calves at 600 lbs average times 30 cents equals $31,500
Canadian or approximately $23 650 US. Its a very scary thought! I
hate being a pessimist but you only have to look at what prices
Argentine beekeepers are being paid for their honey right now for an
I do find it interesting that since the war in Iraq and Canada's
refusal to take part directly (We sent extra troops to Afghanistan
to relieve US troops which went to Iraq) in that quagmire, we have
encountered SARS, but none in the US, we had BSE with one in the US,
originating from Canada, the bird flu and none recently in the US.
How is it that a country with greater population density and 10
times the population not to mention many more and larger corporate
owned factory farms with almost grotesque animal population
densities has escaped all these disease outbreaks? We know that bee
diseases have long been a greater issue in the US than in Canada;
how is it that other livestock diseases haven't correlated? Hhmm...
is the US public being duped to protect the interests of a few very
large and powerful corporate owned agricultural industries which
have widespread control over most of the food we eat.
I just got off the
phone with AFSC. Apparently there is a new equity loss program,
with forms available on the
Haven't looked yet. Only for Alberta?
looked, I cannot find it.
spent the afternoon driving around back roads in Muskoka searching for the
auto wreckers to get a door lock actuator I had located on the phone, then,
in the evening, I washed up in the boathouse.
Today : A mix of
sun and cloud. 30 percent chance of showers or late afternoon thunderstorms.
High 24. UV index 7 or high. /
Tonight : Cloudy periods. 30 percent chance of showers or thunderstorms this
evening. Low 11. /
Normals for the period : Low 10. High 24.
notice that AVG free version (my
favourite and only installed virus checker) has a major upgrade today.
I update daily, and the download is usually small. Today's is 2705 KB.
is also a new critical
update today. Computer security is very important these days, and I
recommend checking for updates almost daily and then downloading and installing
them faithfully. If you visit the online scans recommended on
my security page, you'll notice that the
anti-virus companies also websites offer emails warning about new threats, as a
did find the reference to the equity loss program (above). It is actually
just part of the normal NISA/CAIS stabilization system, with an accelerated
payment schedule for those in dire need and details can be found by searching
for 'equity loss'
some more cleanup, then went looking for some parts in Bracebridge. Sarah
and Lindsey came up from the south to join us for the weekend.
Today : Sunny with
cloudy periods. 30 percent chance of showers this afternoon with the risk of a
thunderstorm. High 23. UV index 8 or very high. /
Tonight : Cloudy periods. 30 percent chance of showers this evening with the
risk of a thunderstorm. Low 11. /
Normals for the period : Low 10. High 24.
I puttered around the boathouse today, then visited
with Gordon, Leny, and their son, John when they came by to visit. After
supper, I drove to Sudbury.
Saturday : Sunny with cloudy periods. High 21.