Spotlight on Manuka honey production's sweet side

Article published in Taranaki Daily News

Sticky sweet liquid gold production benefits will be the top-billing subject at Hawera’s upcoming Manuka honey symposium.

International demand for Manuka honey has seen New Zealand honey exports grow to more than $242 million per annum but those in the industry believe the potential has only just begun to be tapped.

Exploring these opportunities, and confronting some of the challenges facing the industry, is the aim of the Wednesday February 17 conference at Hawera’s TSB Hub.

Manuka Research Partnership Limited (MRPL) chairman Neil Walker said Taranaki’s back country farms provided idea growing conditions for Manuka and 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,” he 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 hoped to see the 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, well just crudely, we’re looking to double, double, double the honey industry,” he said.

“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.

“The worst part of people’s farms, the 10 per cent of them, actually cost them money.”

Walker believes converting those portions of farms to manuka could help farmers to make money.

Venture Taranaki (VT) spokeswoman Dr Anne Probert said demand for the product currently exceeded supply.

“The unique properties of manuka, particularly for health applications, has attracted global attention and premium prices in recent years,” she said.

Manuka New Zealand 2016 will present more than a dozen expert speakers working in or alongside the industry, covering sustainable land use, science and medical uses of manuka, future strategies, using Maori and conservation land and more. It will also examine the risks.

*Manuka New Zealand 2016 will take place at the TSB Hub, Camberwell Road, Hawera, South Taranaki, from 9am-4pm on Wednesday 17 February 2017.

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