Spotlight Placed on the ‘Sweet Side’ of Manuka Honey
Hawera Symposium is using Manuka honey as its top-billing subject at an upcoming conference. New Zealand exports of the sticky stuff have increased to over $200 million per year which is aligned with the international demand for the product and experts believe that the potential for this industry has only just begun. The aim of the upcoming Hawera conference is to explore the opportunities in Manuka honey and also confront some of the challenges that this newly popular industry is facing.
Neil Walker, Manuka Research Partnership Limited (MRPL) chairman, said that the back country of Taranaki has provided the best growing conditions for Manuka and also lends itself to Manuka honey production. “We’re looking at back country land and really steep land and we’re living to give them really good cultivators and we’re looking to give them the best advice, and we’re looking to control the gold-rush mentality that’s out there,” Walker said.
“We’ve seen the dairy industry recently where you go to some immense price and then a crash. We don’t want that kind of thing to happen. We want to have this as a controlled, sensible industry.” Walker has hopes of the Manuka honey industry continuously doubling over the next 10 years. “We’ve been charged by the government to go from $85 million to $1.2 billion worth of Manuka honey by 2026 and how we do that […] we’re looking to double, double, double the honey industry,” he explained.
With the amount of land available that is prime for Manuka planting and honey harvesting, Walker believes that using portions of farms for Manuka could potentially help farmers make more money, stimulating the industry and the economy. “You’ve got so much land out there with sheep on it that’s steep and fairly inaccessible and where, if the farmer was to put it aside you’d avoid all the slips and erosions because Manuka is the one crop that never ever harvests.”
Dr. Anne Probert, Venture Taranaki (VT) spokeswoman, said that the demand for Manuka honey is currently higher than the supply. “The unique properties of Manuka, particularly for health applications, has attracted global attention and premium prices in recent years,” she said. Hawera’s symposium, being called “Manuka New Zealand 2016,” will include speaking opportunities from more than a dozen experts who work in or alongside the Manuka honey industry and topics will cover sustainable use of land, scientific uses for Manuka honey as well as future strategies to keep the industry growing.