31 Aug 2015

Manuka honey drive threatens pollination

7:04 am on 31 August 2015

The pursuit of the big money to be made from manuka honey has raised concerns that fruit and crop growers who rely on bees for pollination are missing out.

The Ministry for Primary Industries wants to be able to more accurately define the properties of manuka honey.

Mr Hartnell said the challenge will be to get beekeepers who are prepared to sacrifice some of their manuka crop for pollination services. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

There's been a huge increase in the number of beekeepers - they are expected to reach 6000, with about 600,000 hives by the end of the year, doubling the number after varroa struck.

John Hartnell of Federated Farmers' Bee Industry Group said the main driver behind that was the manuka honey phenomenon, but there was a down side to that.

He said he had concerns regarding pollination with more hectares of kiwifruit and other fruit being planted each year.

"Our challenge is actually getting bee keepers that actually want to be pollinators and who are prepared to, if you like, sacrifice some of that manuka crop for the pollination services that they provide, so we've got some concerns there and we'll be certainly talking to industries about that and some forward planning on what will be required in the future."

Mr Hartnell said financial reward is an incentive and there needed to be sufficient incentive for bee keepers to prepare their hives for pollination requirements.

"The reality is that a bee keeper can probably produce 10 kilograms of manuka honey and get a better reward than he can if he puts his hive into pollination... but as an industry we have an obligation to our horticulture and agriculture sectors to make sure that we continue to provide those pollination services."

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