19 Nov 2018

Company changes the way it produces mānuka honey

7:26 pm on 19 November 2018

Comvita is planning to produce more mānuka honey from farmed plantations rather than from bees foraging nectar in the wild.

Manuka South.

Manuka South. Photo: Manuka South / Supplied

The company has signed a 25-year deal with MyFarm Investments to plant mānuka on 1650 hectares of North Island hill country.

The company's chief executive Scott Coulter said this would be the first large scale plantation using third party capital.

He expects to replicate this initial deal with an additional 2000 hectares, and 2.4 million mānuka plants, grown each year on high country farm land.

Scott Coulter said his company was already putting in mānuka plantations but this was the first deal of its type, and farmed mānuka would be game changing.

"This is a step change for productivity for bee keeping in New Zealand. Really the skies the limit.

"From an environmental perspective this is also ground breaking and could result in a fundamental change in land use for some central North Island hill country farms.

"The irony is that some of the land used to be planted in mānuka and was then cleared for farms. Now we're replanting."

The company has established 12 seed nurseries in different areas and has been actively testing the agronomics of growing mānuka in large scale plantations.

"We are starting to see some excellent outcomes from this breeding programme," Mr Coulter said.

In a statement to the NZX today, Comvita said it now had a number of mānuka "crosses" that could flower for longer, later or produce higher levels of DHA - the precursor in the nectar that gave mānuka honey its unique properties.

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