22 Aug 2017

Ministry delays 'not good enough' for honey industry

2:14 pm on 22 August 2017

The UMF Honey Association is frustrated that the Ministry for Primary Industries keeps delaying its scientific definition for mānuka honey.

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none Photo: RNZ

The ministry won't finalise its definition until the end of the year.

Its proposed definition was released in April, after damaging allegations in British media that consumers were paying inflated prices for products with little mānuka.

UMF Honey Association chief executive John Rawcliffe said delaying the definition was bad news.

"The industry needs something now to work with, investors needs to know where they stand, consumers ... every party in this game needs to know exactly where they stand."

The honey industry is calling for a mānuka definition that is tighter than what the ministry was suggesting, Mr Rawcliffe said.

"So that says to you that the industry is accepting a robust, strong, internationally accepted standard. We need to move on it and move on it now.

"December the 16th they [MPI] said they had done the science, the peer reviews and they'll be discussing the roll out this year. It's been this year, they're now looking at the end of the year - and quite frankly that's not good enough."

In August last year the UMF Honey Association released its own scientific mānuka definition, which it said identified unique profile and unique markers that were definitely characteristic of mānuka.

Mr Rawcliffe said he wanted the government to review this, and then use it.

"We need an independent body to come on in, review it ... it'd take only two or three weeks to get this done - and then give some confidence to the industry to move forward for the summer months."

The honey season kicks off in Northland next month, and Mr Rawcliffe said beekeepers did not have certainty from the government that their high value products were good quality.

"People need to invest in their hives, they need to build up, they need to have confidence that what they are producing is going to be line with a strong definition, an accepted international definition."

The ministry was not available for an interview.

Its director systems audit, assurance and monitoring, Allan Kinsella, said in a statement the ministry was committed to an open and transparent approach to developing a scientific definition for mānuka honey.

"This is why we are pausing the finalisation of the definition to the end of the year in order to fully consider the alternative definition industry provided during consultation.

"As part of this process we will ask industry to provide all the data and methodology that supports the definition that they are proposing so it can be full considered."

He said as the regulator, MPI was focused on ensuring the rules for the exporting of mānuka honey were based on a robust and accurate scientific definition.

Mr Kinsella said it had taken over three years to get to this point and he was not prepared to rush it.

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