April 30, 2019, 3:24 p.m.
In 2017 the Ministry for Primary Industries reclassified Mānuka honey in an effort to maintain New Zealand’s position in a competitive international market, however the gradings have had disastrous effects on Tai Tokerau businesses.
At a hui recently in Otiria, stakeholders discussed the issues and proposed solutions to support a collapsing industry.
The definition of Mānuka honey is made of five compounds indigenous to the New Zealand Mānuka bush, four from the nectar and one from the pollen which is then identified as either monofloral or multi-floral honey. This new definition has since seen 50 percent of Northland crops excluded and now only holding a value of $18 per kg compared to $70 per kg previously.
General Manager for Ngāti Porou Miere Victor Goldsmith was involved in the 2017 process of defining Mānuka honey and believes, at the time, the science behind it was not robust.
“When the decision came out in December 2017 they gave us a month to comply with the definition. They probably chose the wrong chemical markers, they did not consult and for Māori as a treaty partner, we weren’t listened to.
“Up here, a couple of those chemical markers are problematic and with the current Mānuka definition, you have to meet the four chemical markers and the DNA test and they haven’t taken into account regional variations and that’s the issue we’ve got here right now,” he said.
Honey Manager for Ngāti Hine Trust John Craig said the hui was a chance to hear from a collective voice that urgently requires change.
“From the data I’ve collected, more than 50 percent is declared non Mānuka by the MPI definition but by the science definition, it is monofloral Mānuka and so suddenly they have said that 50 percent of our crop is worthless and that’s the problem,” Craig said.
Chair of Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust Pita Tipene said the classifications have been catastrophic to local businesses in a time when the government is moving forward in its regional development plans to plant more Mānuka.
“You’ve got Mānuka honey coming off our land now that’s no longer termed Mānuka honey.
“What that does to our industry is it takes away money from the profits and for the smaller landholders, they can’t sustain it so they shed jobs, profits and the government needs to realise that while they think it’s working, Tai Tokerau becomes collateral damage for the rest of the country.
“We want the minister to get MPI to look at the definition and revert to an interim measure until we can get something that is fair to all and doesn’t impose on us here in Tai Tokerau.” Tipene said.
Goldsmith urged the government to go back and look at more stable markers within Mānuka to ensure fairness to all in the New Zealand industry.
“We need to look at the definition and the science behind it, that it’s being independently peer reviewed and they need to consult with Māori in a true and genuine partnership.”