High performance mānuka creates new revenue stream for hill country farmers

Hill country landowners need to act now to get their hands on high performance mānuka seedlings that could see them reaping the benefits of what is expected to be a $1.2 billion industry by 2028.

Mānuka Research Partnership Limited (MRPL), has its sights on increasing the supply of highly sought after medical-grade mānuka honey to significantly lift the value of the industry.

MRPL wants to lift the value of New Zealand’s mānuka honey industry from an estimated $242 million last year towards a target of $1.2 billion annually by 2028. 

MRPL has launched a commercial arm, Mānuka Farming New Zealand, to provide a full package of services to landowners interested in establishing a mānuka plantation to diversify their businesses and at the same time protect erosion prone land.

Mānuka Farming NZ’s newly appointed Commercial Manager Allan McPherson said the latest high performance seedlings are now able to be ordered for planting in 2017. These plants will enable economically viable honey production as early as 2020. 

“We had high demand for our first release of seedlings and we’re confident that our second release will also be highly sought after.

Landowners interested in establishing mānuka plantations to help address erosion issues are able to apply for funding through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Afforestation Grant Scheme (AGS).  Applications open in April 2016 for planting in winter 2017.

Mr McPherson said Mānuka Farming NZ is set to quickly become the preeminent supplier of genetically improved mānuka cultivars that have been extensively field tested and matched to individual sites.  Manuka Farming NZ will also provide access to services for land environment planning, site appraisal, planting & husbandry, and be able to introduce landowners to apiarist partners and assist with funding applications.

 “Our collective knowledge places us at the forefront of the science and practical knowhow regarding the successful establishment of mānuka plantations and integrated apiary requirements. 

 “It’s important that we provide a full range of services and support for landowners that are interested in this fast growing industry. MRPL has invested significantly in the science of growing mānuka and we have got cultivars that will suit a wide range of climate and environment situations throughout New Zealand.

“We can match a proven cultivar to the land and environment and we can back that up with a range of support services right through the production cycle.

Mr McPherson said over 1000 ha of trial sites throughout New Zealand have been testing a range of mānuka varieties, with 400 ha being more closely monitored to gather knowledge of the plants’ performance in different environments.  This includes establishment, growth, nectar production and quality, floral traits and apiary performance.

“We are talking with landowners throughout New Zealand and advising them on the many benefits of planting mānuka. It’s not just about providing an additional revenue stream but also minimising the risk of erosion and keeping sediment out of waterways. It’s a win-win,” he said.

Mr McPherson will be promoting mānuka plantations at the Central District Field Days in Fielding on March 17-19 and the National Fieldays at Mystery Creek on June 15-18. The company has also launched a website www.manukafarmingnz.co.nz .

MRPL chairman Neil Walker said back country land provides the ideal conditions for growing mānuka.

“We’re looking at back country land and suggesting to owners to plant proven mānuka cultivars backed by really good advice.

“There is a lot of steep and fairly inaccessible land out there that, if used for plantation mānuka, could prevent slips and erosion. The poorer producing parts of a hill country farm can actually cost money to farm, and we can change that.”