24 Jun 2009

Honey dispute working group set up

1:00 pm on 24 June 2009

Representatives of the honey industry have agreed to form a working group to try to resolve a conflict that's threatening the international reputation of manuka honey and the export trade.

Manuka sells for a significantly higher price than other honeys because of unique antibacterial properties.

But a disagreement over labelling and testing standards has divided the industry.

Manuka honey producers and exporters, government officials and two cabinet ministers met on Tuesday afternoon. The working group is the outcome.

Agriculture Minister David Carter says everyone agrees that the fighting has to stop.

He and Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson made it clear that the industry had to find its own solutions and not look to Government-imposed restrictions.

Bee Industry Standards Council chair Jim Edwards says the participants agreed that there has to be a solid scientific basis for whatever standards are used to define the active properties of manuka honey. He says that then needs to be built into a marketing strategy.

Active Manuka Honey Association executive member Wira Gardiner says getting agreement on testing standards is the key to resolving the dispute.

He says the association is continuing talks with a honey exporter, Watson & Son, with the aim of resolving a legal dispute over testing and labelling to avoid having to go back to court next month.