Multimillion dollar mānuka honey loss forecast

By Kelvin McDonald
  • North Island: East Coast

Poor spring weather is being blamed for a massive drop in mānuka honey supply that will turn sour for some producers.

Victor Goldsmith of Ngāti Porou Miere limited Partnership says, “For honey producers (beekeepers) the impact will be significant and for those that have over-capitalised - terminal.”

He says early indications are that mānuka honey production is down 60% to 70% on last season, due to cold, windy, weather during flowering in late spring.

Goldsmith says the export value of all honey was $300 million in 2016. But believes the poor mānuka nectar flow last spring will severely impact this year’s export figures.  “You could be looking at less than $100 million.  Depends on honey stock on hand from the previous season.”

Goldsmith is the General Manager of Ngāti Porou Miere, a collective of Ngāti Pōrou land trusts and incorporations. Miere helps iwi landowners participate more effectively in the multimillion dollar mānuka honey industry.

According to Goldsmith, Māori on the East Coast are less likely to be amongst the mānuka honey producers forced out of business by the poor season, but may be impacted as workers. 

“There are very few Māori beekeepers on the East Coast.  Most are working for existing honey businesses.  These businesses will feel the pinch and will have some robust discussions with their investors and financiers.  Some will struggle to survive,” he says. 

Despite the difficulties, Goldsmith says the situation could sweeten the aspirations of Miere’s Māori landowners.

“From our perspective, the season has been poor, but there is a silver lining.  Hives will be cheaper, some 'fly by night' beekeeping operations will fold and hopefully hive numbers will drop resulting in less bee pressure on our mānuka resource,” he says. Early reports suggest hives that were $1,100 each to purchase have dropped to $500 per hive.

Goldsmith is confident Miere’s landowners will not be unduly impacted by the poor season. “We have a very passive approach so there is little to no risk as a landowner.  We will get into beekeeping so our capital requirements will be less which is a positive,” he says.