28 March 2002
Supermarket buyers are facing price hikes for honey as they seek alternative supplies following an EU-wide ban on Chinese imports, writes Robin Parker.
The Food Standards Agency called for the withdrawal of honey of Chinese origin, including blended honeys, last month after tests revealed traces of the antibiotic chloramphenicol.
Up to 50 per cent of honey sold in the UK is sourced from China, and the ban resulted in empty shelves across supermarkets in the past few weeks.
Supplies from New Zealand have also been affected recently as bees were hit by an outbreak of blood-sucking mites.
Retailers were unsure how long supply chains would remain affected.
An Asda spokeswoman said that suppliers' prices had been put up by 25 per cent. The supermarket has bought substitute supplies from New Zealand, made by bees unaffected by the mite epidemic, to fill the gap.
Blended honey producers have had to seek new suppliers, too.
Kevin Hawkins, director of communications at Safeway, said that of its two main UK suppliers, Rowse has produced a blend without the antibiotics, but Nestlé has said it will not be able to supply any honey for several weeks.
"Realistically, all suppliers are in the same boat as retailers, as they all source from China," said Hawkins. "Our choice of large-scale supplier is very limited."