4 Mar 2014

Comvita looks to new manuka types

3:27 pm on 4 March 2014

Honey and natural health products company Comvita expects plantings of manuka to make a significant contribution to increasing the supply of the sought-after honey.

The company, which produces and markets manuka honey for medicinal as well as culinary use, has been running trials of new varieties of the tree, with the aim of establishing plantations to supplement naturally growing stands.

Gathering manuka honey.

Gathering manuka honey. Photo: PHOTO NZ

Chief executive Brett Hewlett says crosses of indigenous varieties and special varieties are making progress.

"We've got some 25 different planting programmes and trials around the country where we're studying the behaviour of these unique varieties.

"Once we develop a good comprehensive knowledge of how to propagate and grow these plants, we feel we can go into a much bigger and more rapid scale up."

Meanwhile, Comvita has just bought another apiary - Hawke's Bay Honey in Hastings -as part of its plan to control half if its own honey supply.

It now has six regional apiary operations spread through the North Island and Mr Hewlett says it should reach its target in a few years.

He says in the season just finishing Comvita had about 23,000 hives and he's confident that will increase to more than 30,000 in the next two years.

Mr Hewlett says the main point of owning supply is to have more control over the rapidly escalating costs of obtaining manuka honey.

At the same time, he says, Comvita is working with its loyal suppliers to help them to grow.