Returns for beekeepers and farmers could be sweetened considerably if a Primary Growth Partnership project achieves its aims. The partnership between the Government, honey company Comvita and the Manuka Research Project Limited (MRPL) aims to push returns from Manuka honey past the $1 billion mark - a sixteen-fold increase on current returns. Currently the value of Manuka honey to New Zealand is $85 million.
Medical grade Manuka honey is in hot demand world-wide. The high-activity honey contains suitable levels of methyl glyoxolate which, in the honey, is combined with 7 naturally occurring anti-inflammatories and three immuno-chemicals. It works as a wound dressing.
The managing director of MRPL Neil Walker says the project is looking at the viability of doubling the amount of hives per hectare, doubling Manuka honey yield per hive, doubling the amount of Manuka honey capable of being sold as a medicinal product, and doubling the land area planted in Manuka.
He says a likely scenario is that Manuka will be planted as a crop and only plants that produce high activity honey will be used. The project is examining how local conditions affect yields and activity levels in honey. Neil Walker says he’d like to see poor quality back country land planted in Manuka. It would provide another income stream for cash-strapped farmers, he says. “If we can make this work there’s a future for back country New Zealand which there really isn’t at the moment.”