New Zealand honey consumers are being forced to pay dramatically higher retail prices for everyday honeys as exporters buy up all available table honeys to blend and sell as authentic manuka honey in global markets.
“There’s a goldrush mentality out there. Overseas demand is rapacious for manuka honey or a blend that can be labelled as manuka honey,” says industry leader and long-time advocate for transparent and internationally credible manuka honey quality standards, Peter Bray, managing director of Canterbury­-based Airborne Honey. Recognised world standards require a honey to be “wholly or mainly” made from the named source on the label yet a high proportion of honey sold as manuka fails to meet this threshold.
Mr Bray said honey providers wanted to be able to supply reasonably priced, quality table honeys to supermarkets, but with tight supply of monoflorals and bush honeys needed to make blended manuka honeys, the average retail price of a 500 gram jar of honey had risen to around $10.00 when it should be around $6.00 based on normal market indicators
According to published media reports quoting the UMF Honey Association, which owns the UMF brand used by some New Zealand manuka honey processing companies, New Zealand produced 1700 tonnes of manuka in 2013, compared with the estimated 1800 tonnes of "manuka" honey sold in Britain alone.
In 2014 total New Zealand honey exports reached 8648 tonnes, similar to the prior year, but grew in value to $202 million, based on an average price of $23.40 per kilo. This suggests that premium priced manuka honey made up more than 70 per cent of total sales or over 6000 tonnes, revealing a significant discrepancy with actual production volume. This would have a value in excess of $150 million at retail. The analysis is corroborated by laboratory testing of in-market samples of manuka products presented at retail, Mr Bray said.
The Ministry of Primary Industry’s voluntary, interim, manuka guidelines do nothing meaningful to prevent other honey varieties.