14 Jan 2018

Trans Tasman honey rivalry gets more bitter

12:41 pm on 14 January 2018

They've already claimed pavlova and Phar Lap - now the Aussies are saying they invented mānuka honey.

A native New Zealand bee (probably Leioproctus sp.) visits a manuka flower (Leptospermum scoparium). Photo taken on Tiritiri Matangi Island.

A native New Zealand bee visits a mānuka flower. Photo: Avenue, Wikimedia Commons

Tasmanian honey producers are claiming to have documented evidence back to 1884 of mānuka honey production on the island, and argue they have the right to use the name.

But producers fighting a trans-Tasman battle for control of the label "mānuka honey" are rejecting claims by Australian apiarists that it was first made in Tasmania.

John Rawcliffe from the Manuka Honey Appellation Society - which wants to stop honey that was not produced in New Zealand from being labelled as 'mānuka' - said the Australians were simply trying to cash in on New Zealand's good name.

"Our point of view is quite clear to Australia: 'Look, you've got good honey, you've got great researchers, you've got a great proposition but describe that proposition with a name that is actually meaningful to you that is different to what we have. And we all can win win here'."

Mānuka honey is made by European bees from the pollen of the leptospermum scoparium plant, a species of tea tree, which is native to Australia and New Zealand.

The Manuka Honey Appellation Society, which represents about 80 percent of New Zealand producers, is trying to gain certification rights in the United Kingdom, China and the United States, where demand for mānuka honey has surged in recent years because of its health benefits.

In December last year the UK Trade Mark Registry decided to accept the term "Manuka Honey" as a certification mark.

Australian producers have three months to challenge the decision.

Mr Rawcliffe said mānuka was a Māori name and consumers rightly expected manuka honey to come from New Zealand.

"That proposition needs to be protected... it's like champagne can only come from one region in France."

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