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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 December, 2004, 15:57 GMT
Honey shortage blamed on weather
A bee on a flower
Beekeepers say the shortage of honey is due to the poor summer
There will be a drastic shortage of Welsh honey this Christmas thanks to a wet summer, producers have warned.

Normally, there would be bumper sales of the crop during the festive season when it is especially popular as gifts.

But for some beekeepers in Ceredigion 2004 has been one of the worst years for production they can ever remember.

It needs to be relatively hot for plants to produce nectar, but sunshine was rare from May to September.

The honey famine follows another shortage - of lard used in the Christmas dinner and for other festive goodies. Increased demand from recently-joined members of the EU has led to a shortfall in available pork to turn into lard, retailers say.

Former president of the Welsh Beekeepers' Association, John Hall, said honey production throughout Wales, and in parts of England, had been effected by bad weather.

Honey producers in Ceredigion said spring was mostly rain-free, but the summer was blighted by showers and low temperatures.

David Wainwright, from Talybont, near Aberystwyth, has been a honey farmer for 30 years. He has 300 hives, but his crop is down 80% on last year.

There will be a shortage of honey this Christmas - there's generally speaking more sold around Christmas
Honey producer Gerald Cooper

"It's been a strange year and certainly one of the worse ever for production," he said.

"Up until May we had normal honey production because the weather wasn't too bad. But after that we were dogged by frequent showers, a lack of sunshine and cold temperatures.

"We moved the hives up the mountain for the heather honey in the summer, but that proved equally as poor."

He added: "My production is down 80% on last year so it's fair to say there will be a shortage of Welsh honey this Christmas.

"Normally at Christmas and during the rest of the winter a lot of honey is sold - it's probably our busiest time."

At Aberystwyth Arts Centre's indoor market a sign is being displayed saying Welsh honey is no longer available due to the poor summer harvest.

This year the only honey on sale there is from Africa and other tropical parts of the world.

A colony of bees can have 40,000 workers
A bee will visit from 100 to 1,000 flowers each outing from the hive
It can take 50,000 bee flights to collect a pound of honey
Bees also produce wax for candles and Royal Jelly

Gerald Cooper, of New Quay Honey Farm, has been in the business for nearly 20 years.

He said: "I used to be a dairy farmer and come rain or come shine we'd always get milk from our cows.

"But the honey crop is so dependent on the weather. It needs to be relatively hot for the plants to produce nectar.

"I have nearly 500 hives and last year I harvested 35,000lbs of honey - I have exactly half that this year.

"I have some in stock and if you look after honey it will keep well. There will be a shortage of honey this Christmas - there's generally speaking more sold around Christmas."

The award-wiining business produces nearly 50 lines from straight honey to honey mustard and mead.

Mr Hall, also a former chairman of the Council of National Beekeeping Associations, said: "The weather has effected honey production and it has been a general problem throughout Wales and parts of England."

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