Just when it seemed like the Manuka honey beekeepers were going to fight the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) tooth and nail of the definition of Manuka honey, the MPI backed down redefining the liquid gold, so beekeepers backed off and dropped the pending suit.
Initially, the MPI was trying to define monofloral or multifloral honey to have to contain five micrograms of a chemical marker (2 MAP) at the very least.
Beekeepers quickly balked, claiming the revised standard would have cost beekeepers roughly $100 million per year in exported honey because some Manuka honey that is currently in this classification would no longer fall into that category.
On January 29, the MPI conceded to leave the current standard as is, with the entire Manuka honey industry letting out a collective sigh of relief.
NZ Beekeeping President Russell Berry expressed his displeasure that the MPI never even bothered to reach out to the beekeepers about the definition and/or classifications of what can and cannot be considered Manuka honey.
He stated, “[Beekeepers] objected to the fact that a lot of good Manuka honey was not going to be eligible to be called Manuka honey anymore, and we were going to be lowering our exports of Manuka honey by about 50 percent.”
“Because it all made no sense at all,” Berry continued. “We took this case to protect our members, which are very much family businesses and they were going to be in very serious financial problems because all the stock they hold [would have] all of a sudden lost a lot of its value.”
He further added, “The made a mistake, so they changed the mistake when they realized that if they would have went to court, they would have looked like absolute fools.”
While Berry was pleased with the outcome, he does not seem ready to stand still after this victory, stating, “It’s the end of our concerns on this particular issue, but our concern is that MPI actually listen to the beekeeping industry – not only listen, but consider what we’re saying carefully.”
He also stated, “We are all in favor of a robust definition, we absolutely support that, we need it and it needs to be constantly upgraded – so, science never stands still. So, we need a definition that is acceptable to us in New Zealand but is good to the rest of the world too. It’s not good us coming up with a definition and it not being acceptable to China, for example, or Europe.”
As the industry continues to grow, this battle will more than likely continue to be waged. Anytime a new product hits the consumables market and takes off such as this, there are always growth challenges and regulations seem to come out of nowhere for government regulation.
We can only hope governments do not get in the way to prevent Manuka honey from continuing to grow in its worldwide support.