Aussies' fight for manuka

INDUSTRY ROW: Lindsay Bourke (left) from Australian Honey Products checks bee hives with his West Tamar head beekeper, Brad Deegan in Tasmania.
INDUSTRY ROW: Lindsay Bourke (left) from Australian Honey Products checks bee hives with his West Tamar head beekeper, Brad Deegan in Tasmania. Heath Holden

AUSTRALIAN beekeepers are gearing up for a sticky fight with New Zealand over the naming rights of manuka honey.

In a sting for Aussie apiarists, their trans-Tasman neighbours are trying to monopolise the bee's knees of honeys, saying the popular manuka nectar is native to New Zealand.

But ManukaLife director and Australian Manuka Honey Association member, Paul Callander, said the east coast of Australia also homes the so-called superfood.

"We have 83 varieties of the manuka or tea-tree bush, whereas New Zealand only has one,” he said.

"New Zealanders are responsible for building the industry, but that should not stop Australians from exporting their products under the manuka label, especially when we have the same plant they do.

"We certainly don't want to coin this as a war with New Zealand, we'd like to work with them on improving the industry.”

Manuka honey is known for its hefty price tag with a top-of-the-line jar costing about $120 for 500g.

From easing eczema to curing gingivitis, the product is believed to have a large number of health benefits and antibacterial qualities.

On Monday, more than 20 beekeepers from across Australia met in Melbourne to kickstart the Australian Manuka Honey Association with the purpose of protecting the profitable export and its name.

Kiwis have successfully marketed the manuka moniker as their own for many years, but Aussie beekeepers say their honey is equally legitimate and there's plenty of business to go around.

"Demand is far outstripping supply, therefore co-operating with New Zealand would be a positive, but we want free-market access for our products,” Mr Callander said.

"It's a global business.

"China are using manuka as a food and high-grade vitamin supplement, whereas the western world are looking at it as pharmaceutical and cosmetic application.”

Novak Djokovic, Scarlett Johansson and Gwyneth Paltrow are just a few big names buzzing about the super honey.

If Kiwi producers are granted exclusive trademarks on manuka honey, Australian apiarists will be forced come up with an alternative name.

Topics:  manuka honey

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