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New standard sticky issue for beekeepers

Honey bees at work. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

Standards ‘throwing good honey away’

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Wairarapa honey producers are being hit hard by updated manuka honey standards which have seen returns slashed this season.

The region is one of the worst affected areas in the country, along with Coromandel and Northland, according to Jane Lorimer of New Zealand Beekeeping.

The change in Ministry of Primary Industry manuka standards in December 2017 is creating the nationwide problem.

Lorimer says failing to meet the new standard is coming at a hefty price to the industry.

“When you project for selling the Manuka at $70 a kilogram but only receive $18 or less, that is a huge loss and they are struggling,” she said.

According to MPI there are five markers which need to be identified to classify honey as monofloral manuka, multifloral manuka or non-manuka honey.

It is the increase in one chemical marker [2’ methoxyacetophenone] from 1mg to 5mg per kilogram that is causing many suppliers to struggle to meet the standard for top grade monofloral manuka.

The change was made to prevent producers upping their grades by mixing it with kanuka honey. Ironically, it seems that if mixed with clover, honey it will meet the standard.

Since MPI updated the standard there has been a huge decrease in what is being classified as monofloral manuka honey.

Wairarapa beekeepers were happy to comment but did not wish to be named.

One beekeeper said virtually none of his honey this season met the MPI standard.

“So, going from $50 to $4 a kilogram is not a good season. Because there hasn’t been great season for the last couple years, beekeepers are taking this standard impact harder.”

Nevertheless, down the line they feel that the standard could be a positive thing.

Another supplier said there had been an oversupply of lower grade manuka and “this has seen the price for multifloral manuka drop”.

“Wairarapa has not had good seasons for the last few years . . . it is hard to nut down how much of it is affected by the standard”.

Lorimer says “the manuka standards are throwing away good honey” and some producers have had to lay off staff because of the drop in returns.

“What the new standard did not take into consideration is that there are variations season to season and there is thought to be regional variations as well,” she said.

She says MPI didn’t take into consideration the research those in the industry had already done to classify manuka honey.

The definition needed to be “broad enough to cover what is considered true manuka”.

While the standard was said by another Wairarapa beekeeper to be “definitely a game changer”, overpopulation of bees was another issue for the industry.

“There has been a huge flock of bees into the area in the last decade. The standard is to leave 3-5km between the hives. Now the hives are being placed nearly on top of each other.”


  1. Is there a possibility, to have a honey” grade “standard, such as selling grade A at higher price and selling grade B, or C at a reduced price? I have had wilderness honey and though not “clear”, the quality and taste was excellent.

  2. Its a swarm of bees not a flock, Manuka honey was being sold for exorbitant prices, much of which was not monofloral manuka or multifloral manuka. So as often happens cheating people comes back to haunt these cheats. Sadly for those genuine bee keepers the cheats affect their hard earned work and ruin a good thing. Bee keepers are having a very hard time now, not only because of Varroa, black hive beetle, Asian hornet, but also the big companies who make big money selling pesticides which are wiping out much of our honeybees, bumble bees and many other pollinating insects. Profitbefore anything is going to cause us major problems, but no one is listening. I am a bee keeper but we are fighting an up hill battle.

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