New Mānuka honey definition and regulations for NZ exporters

By Talisa Kupenga

Mānuka honey will need to be tested before it can be sold overseas as Mānuka come the new year. Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor says by defining Mānuka it will keep quality producers in and keep cowboy operators out.

A world first when it comes to a definition for Mānuka honey, which Agricultural Minister Damien O’Connor says will sweeten the quality of the industry.

“This will give confirmation and confidence for people who want to go out and invest in hives and in the production of Mānuka honey, they know that they will be able to produce something that is certified and ultimately, overtime, I am sure more valuable."

Honey will be tested for five markers - four chemical and one DNA - before it will qualify as mānuka for overseas sale.

National’s Food Safety spokesperson David Bennett says the definition roundly ignores industry feedback.

“That definition excludes a chemical test for Leptosperin that the honey industry currently uses in its existing tests, and that they strongly advocated for inclusion in the Ministry test during its consultation period.

“The Minister excluded Leptopserin as he believes it dilutes over time. But he needs to show what proof he has of that dilution and the time that the dilution takes."

Exporters will foot the testing bill based on checking 200ltr drums, with new export requirements starting February 5.

Minister O’Connor says "initially it will be $150-$160 for a drum but up to 300kgs drums anywhere from $15-$44 per kilogram, you can do the calculations, it is not a huge amount."

The Mānuka honey industry is currently worth $180million to New Zealand each year, and the regulation announcement comes as the UK's trademark agency recognises New Zealand's rights to the name Mānuka and that the product is unique to Aotearoa.

The Minister says "I've met with representatives from the Māori producers and they're very supportive of us getting a standard in place because Māori producers like everyone else have been at risk by those cowboy operators who wanted to adulterate and in fact sell Mānuka honey that wasn't true to label,"

The Ministry for Primary Industries test will also be able to determine whether the honey is mono-floral or multi-floral.