The Cost of Honey by jlhd32


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									                               Kotaich: 2002: La Pampa, Argentina

                                        The Cost of Honey
           There isn’t enough honey and prices are going up. U.S. honey producers talk about rising
demands and dwindling hives. Much press is given to the disappearance of honeybee populations. Will
American consumers pay a heavy price for honey in the next few years? U.S. producers are worried they
won’t be able to meet the demand. But the reduction in honey is not entirely the fault of U.S. beekeepers,
nor is it the result of their disappearing bees. Consumers are unaware that the shortage of honey might
have something more to do with U.S. trade law and it’s unfair practices, specifically the restrictions
imposed on the importation of honey from Argentina.
           Honey producers in the U.S. have accused the Argentineans of “dumping” honey exports, which
are subject to penalties under customs agreements. They claim they have lost business and that their honey
is going bad because the market has been oversupplied by honey imported from Argentina, which was
being sold for prices lower than the cost for U.S. beekeepers to simply produce the same amount of honey.
The U.S. government does its part to appease the complaints of its honey producers by imposing a 66%
tariff on honey imported from Argentina, which effectively prevents their access to the U.S. market.
Before the tariff, Argentina was the leading exporter of honey in the world, and these exports had provided
their economy with over 80 million in much needed foreign exchange. The loss of trade to one of the
primary consumers was a blow to the Argentinean economy and the thousands of beekeepers whose
livelihoods depended on honey exports. As a result, Argentineans argue they are being unduly punished
for their more efficient production. The tariffs couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Argentinean
honey producers, as a recent recession had already left many people without employment. Honey export
had become one of the few areas of growth in their economy characterized by instability and a lack of
international competition. Yet just as they became competitive, fears of being outcompeted led U.S.
producers complain and prevent any further growth of the Argentinean industry.
           Is the U.S. reasonably protecting the interests of its domestic producers, or is it deliberately
thwarting the efforts of Argentinean honey producers to earn an honest living? Their livelihood at stake,
the beekeepers of Argentina are speaking out, frustrated by the attempts of the U.S. to restrict their honey
from competing with its own domestic producers. Accusations are hurled back and forth. Argentina points
to U.S. hypocrisy, appearing to advocate liberal trade barriers, but conveniently manipulating the trade laws
to their own advantage and minimize competition, even at the expense of this competition.
           The average beekeepers in Argentina are small producers who sell their products to larger
cooperatives. They are not savvy to the mechanics of international business and complicated trade laws.
They scratch out a living with little knowledge of the legalities that prevent them from directly benefitting
from their hard work. They only know that tariffs and taxes eat away at their meager profits, sometimes
obliterating them entirely. The laws imposed by the U.S. penalize these workers in their attempts to be
self-sufficient and provide for their families, which runs contrary to the capitalist model and “American
dream” that the U.S. promotes in these same countries. The case of Argentinean honey reveals the
contradiction of “free trade agreements” that claim to benefit the economies of each trade partner, while in
reality they are structured to maintain the political and economic hegemony of the U.S. in South America.
The U.S. calls for greater production in countries that can be easily exploited for their own gains, yet when
those countries threaten to upset their dominance, the U.S. takes action to limit their prosperity.

Katz, C. 2002. “Free Trade Area of the Americas: NAFTA Marches South.” NACLA: Report on the
Americas 35(4): 27-31.

Rohter L. 2002 March 5. U.S. and Argentina Fight Over Honey. New York Times
honey.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss> Accessed 13 May 2009.

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