Posted on April 30, 2018
To the year ended 30 June 2017, export revenue for New Zealand honey reached $329 million, up 4.5% on the previous year.
This increase could largely be attributed to an average FOB price of $38.92/kg of honey, a 9.3% increase on the previous year, which offset a 381 tonne decrease in tonnes of honey exported from the previous year.
Export volumes are slowing down due to an undersupply of mānuka honey, even though registered hive numbers reached 795,578 hives, a 16.3% increase on the previous year.
The slowing of honey volumes exported is a reflection of a poor 2016/2017 flowering season, hive over stocking and, more than any other factor, a shortage of mānuka forests.
The $1B export target will only be achieved if there is a substantial increase in plantings of mānuka forest.
Mānuka resource poaching has become a serious issue and is leading to disputes between landowners and beekeepers, and worse still, to criminal activity.
Rogue beekeepers are placing hives on neighboring landowner’s properties close by to blocks of mānuka and are not paying the mānuka block landowner anything for poaching nectar from their mānuka trees.
In most cases, the mānuka landowners have a hive lease or honey share agreement with a beekeeper, to place hives on their land, which means that both the mānuka landowner and the rightful beekeeper are losing honey and money to the boundary riding rogue beekeepers.
This is also a major hindrance to investors who are considering planting mānuka forests.
What can be done about this?
The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) needs to establish legislation that protects mānuka landowners from illegal poaching.
A Government or an Industry body would need to have the backing of legislation, to allow them to monitor and enforce the rights of owners of registered mānuka forests.
One suggestion would be to allow mānuka block landowners to register their mānuka forest, including a hive free zone surrounding the boundary of their mānuka forest, which would make it illegal for rogue beekeepers to place their hives within the hive free zone while the mānuka trees were in flower.
The hive free zone would need to be limited to a 3 consecutive month period when the mānuka trees are in flower so that beekeepers could still winter hives within the hive free zone. The 3 month flowering period would vary between regions due to the varying mānuka flowering times throughout New Zealand.
The registered mānuka forest would need to be of a reasonable sized area and would need to have a minimum mānuka plant density per ha to qualify.
Neighboring landowners who have a hive exclusion zone placed over their property, would need a provision which would allow them to request the beekeeper who has the agreement to place hives on the registered mānuka forest, to place hives on their property also.
Owners of registered mānuka forests could have the right to include the registration on their land title if they so desired.
This system would encourage planting of new mānuka forests, with landowners knowing that their valuable investment can be protected from boundary riding beekeepers placing hives within a legally defined distance from the boundary of their registered mānuka forest.
By Andrew Wearmouth