6 Sep 2013

Comvita confident about honey season

7:10 am on 6 September 2013

Comvita says the honey season appears to be shaping up well and sales in all its markets, except Australia are growing.

To keep up with demand for its products, Comvita plans to accelerate its acquisition of bee farms, after selling a 7% stake in the company to Derma Sciences for $9 million.

Comvita chief executive Brett Hewlett said it's a mutually beneficial deal, giving Derma security of supply, and the cash Comvita needs to buy more farms to increase its own supply from 30% to 50% of total honey needs.

Mr Hewlett said it's not always easy to buy more farms, but they hope to reach their target within the next two years.

He said they are often family businesses which are not always looking for a straightforward sale, but for other partnership, relationships that could be more appropriate.

"We have to be very open minded and at times even creative around how we might work together to meet both parties interest."

Mr Hewlett said sales are continuing to grow in all markets, though Australian consumers appear to be holding back because of the election.

But he said there is still very strong demand in Asia, New Zealand is going well and the United States is starting to shape up nicely.

Last month, the Food Standards Agency in Britain issued warnings about misleading and illegal claims on the labels of New Zealand honey, after tests revealed many manuka honey products had none of the claimed active properties.

Mr Hewlett said that resulted in a boost in sales of its products there as consumers turn to trusted brands, but he warns the industry needs to address the issue urgently to ensure its continued health in the long term.