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The Great Bee Migration: Supply Analysis of Honey Bee Colony Shipments into California for Almond Pollination Services

Brittney K. Goodrich, Jeffrey C. Williams and Rachael E. Goodhue

American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 2019, vol. 101, issue 5, 1353-1372

Abstract: Over the last two decades, the number of honey bee colonies performing pollination services for the California almond industry has grown steadily and now equals a substantial share of all colonies in the United States. Most US beekeeping operations have not expanded their colony numbers at the current levels of almond pollination fees. Thus, as almond acreage has increased, the marginal supplier of colonies has moved further away from California, increasing interstate shipments. We provide a conceptual representation of the supply and demand of U.S. colonies for almond pollination, and utilize the relatively inelastic demand for colonies to explore spatial elasticities of supply. We combine colony shipment data from 2007 to 2018 provided by the California Department of Food and Agriculture with projected prices from the California State Beekeeper's Association pollination fee survey. We use a geographically weighted regression to estimate supply elasticities for each state, and provide supporting regional estimates. The eastern United States, where beekeepers have hesitated to participate in almond pollination due to relatively high transportation costs and the potential for local honey production at the time of almond bloom, have some of the highest price elasticities of supply. This suggests that beekeepers in areas with low transportation and/or opportunity costs have supplied all available colonies, and increases in almond pollination fees have had little effect. We estimate that Florida, Georgia, and Texas had the largest number of colonies that did not participate in almond pollination in 2017, so further increases in supply are likely to come from those states.

Date: 2019
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https://doi.org/10.1093/ajae/aaz046

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