Government to help fund 'mānuka honey' battle

The Government is to contribute $5.7 million to help New Zealand beekeepers secure the exclusive use of the term "mānuka honey" for global marketing.

Mānuka honey is produced by bees who feed off nectar from leptospermum scoparium, which is a type of tea tree, and the honey is highly sought after around the world.

The Mānuka Honey Appellation Society wants New Zealand beekeepers to have exclusive rights to the term and is seeking to trademark it in China. 

The Government earlier endorsed the trademark certification bid with a letter, and will also contribute $5.7 million to the campaign through the Provincial Growth Fund.

Apiculture New Zealand chief executive, Karin Kos said the funding was vital for the campaign.

New Zealand beekeepers want exclusive rights to the term "mānuka honey".
New Zealand beekeepers want exclusive rights to the term "mānuka honey". Photo credit: iStock

"The funding is critical in realising the benefits of comprehensive protection of New Zealand mānuka honey primarily for consumers and producers, and also in how it will deliver wider economic and regional benefits for communities and iwi throughout New Zealand," she said.

She said the funding would help secure a strong platform to generate long-term value for the beekeeping industry and provide stability for the future.

"We know the journey to establish protection of the term in international markets is a long one, but this announcement consolidates a collaborative Government and industry approach that is needed to ensure we realise the potential of the mānuka honey industry," said Kos.

The move to trademark "mānuka honey" has angered Australian beekeepers, who say it could cost the Australian honey industry up to a billion dollars in export revenue to China.

Tasmanian Beekeeper Association, Lindsay Bourke told radio station 3AW that "mānuka honey" was not exclusive to New Zealand

"There are 84 mānuka in Australia, New Zealand only has one," he said.

"The little mānuka tree they've got in New Zealand is the exact same one they had in Tasmania, way before New Zealand popped up out of the ocean as an atoll."

Australian Agriculture Minister,  Bridget McKenzie told Australian media that her office was "seeking clarification" from the New Zealand Government.