30 Jan 2017

Moves made to trademark 'manuka'

3:22 pm on 30 January 2017

The Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) Honey Association is worried about an Australian tree nursery that is trying to grow Manuka trees in the hope of cashing in on New Zealand's lucrative market.

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

The Ministry for Primary Industries wants to be able to more accurately define the properties of manuka honey. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The ABC reported that a tree nursery in Victoria is working with a chemist to test tea tree varieties for the same antimicrobial qualities as manuka honey so the Australian bee industry can compete with New Zealand, especially if there is a honey shortage.

In New Zealand the UMF Honey Association has developed a scientific classification criteria for Manuka and is trying to trademark the use of the word "manuka" to protect it.

The association's spokesperson, John Rawcliffe, said Australia's constant reference to manuka was misleading.

"The research needs to be pure as to their plant, their tea tree, their leptospermum. In New Zealand the plant has a totally different environment, totally different soils and rain.

"A classic example is that I could go to France and take a champagne vine, plant it here in Auckland and then call it champagne... well there is no way it would have the same flavour, taste or character as a French champagne."

He said it was absurd for Australia to say they have a similar plant to manuka that will hold the same characteristics.

"Yes the research should look at their own plant, but any reference back to being manuka from New Zealand is misleading, completely misleading."

Mr Rawcliffe said if people claimed they had manuka honey, when in fact it was not, that damaged the market.

"I'm not a lawyer, but it's misleading and deceptive, it's stealing something that is a New Zealand word, a Māori word.

"If we don't fight for for those foundations then that undermines the New Zealand industry and growth. What is equally important is the consumer perception, this comes from New Zealand and they know that."

Mr Rawcliffe said he had talked to researchers and scientists in Australia who were brilliant. It seemed to be the marketing companies that took a "little bit of science and push the marketing perspective way out of context".

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