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Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health head Professor Richard Archer, Manuka Research Partnership chairman Neil Walker, Taihape beekeeper Don Tweedale, Dan Riddiford of Te Awaiti Station and Massey’s Professor Michael McManus.


Manuka honey research to grow industry

Massey University will provide the science to help grow the medicinal Manuka honey industry in New Zealand 16-fold to near $1 billion.

The research will develop the husbandry techniques to support the emerging practice of Manuka plantation. It will help improve the reliability of supply and boost yields so that landowners and beekeepers can meet the growing demand for medicinal Manuka honey.

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry today announced a Primary Growth Partnership with Manuka Research Partnership (NZ) Ltd and Comvita that invests more than $1.7 million in research to cultivate high active Manuka plantations on back country land. A seven-year programme of innovation is planned to enable growth of the medicinal Manuka honey industry 16-fold. Its current estimated worth is $75 million.

Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey says the programme shows New Zealand innovation at its best where strong business initiatives combine with research and the support from government to develop sustainable industry.

“Massey has a long tradition of supporting business innovation, particularly with primary industries,” he says. “This project will help develop a high value industry by cultivating Manuka on New Zealand back country where traditional farming has been challenging. It a sustainable option for our hill country land-owners and will help meet market demands for medicinal products.

“Improving the supply chain and ensuring the reliability of supply for medical grade Manuka honey will see this industry increase in value.”

Comvita chief supply chain officer Nevin Amos says the market demand for medicinal Manuka products including dressings and honeys is growing rapidly and the natural health company has been working to increase production to meet demand.

“The research will enable us to improve the yield per hive, increase the number of hives per hectare and grow the land area in Manuka plantings,” he says. “We believe we can double each of these factors to grow production and meet demands.”

Dr Amos says creating Manuka plantations that produce honey with high Unique Manuka Factor® is the aim of the research.

Manuka Research Partnership chairman Neil Walker says the programme will develop a science base to ensure the desired quality of honey is produced from the plantations.

“This will provide a new viable alternative for New Zealand’s marginal back country where significant tracts of land are in transition from high-input grazing to forest,” he says. “The members of this partnership believe the venture will have a significant bearing on marginal land use in New Zealand’s back country and provide a new source of income to back country land owners.”

Dr Amos says fewer than 50,000 of the one million hectares of marginal land are needed for Manuka plantations to achieve growth of the industry to $1 billion.

Massey's Institute of Food Nutrition and Human Health head, Professor Richard Archer, says a research programme will develop knowledge to produce Manuka plantations capable of greater yields of honey suitable for medicinal products.

“We will develop techniques in Manuka plantation husbandry for production of medicinal grade Manuka honey,” he says. “Our staff will match new cultivars to the growing environments best suited to honey yield and quality. This will include consideration of the effects of soil biota, companion plants and insects. The work will be achieved in glasshouses, in controlled environments and in the field.”

The information developed in the programme will be used to develop the Manuka honey industry in New Zealand. Members of the Manuka Research Partnership will develop plantations on their own land and on contract. They will also make the information available to others wanting to invest in plantings for production of Manuka honey for medicinal products. A testing service to identify the suitability of new Manuka cultivars for medicinal honey production in different environments is also anticipated.


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