Beekeepers hoping for good flow

The weather hasn’t been kind so far to bee hives. PHOTO: TIM CRONSHAW
The weather hasn’t been kind so far to bee hives. PHOTO: TIM CRONSHAW
Beekeepers hope a sluggish start won’t put the brakes on honey flows this year.

They want to avoid a repeat of the 2020-21 season when national honey production was down 24% to 20,500 tonnes, from a much better summer.

The average honey yield fell then to 25kg per hive.

Apiculture NZ chief executive Karin Kos said a late-flowering and cold and windy start has failed to assist beekeepers so far this season.

"The nectar flow was slower to kick in and it was starting to look good after some wet weeks, but the wetter weather has impacted on the whole season. It would be fair to say it was a slow start, but it’s early days yet and normally the end of February we have a much better idea."

This put a dampener especially on the early manuka production in Northland and parts of the east coast of the North Island.

Beekeepers were used to working with the "ups and downs" of changing weather and markets. However, 7% of commercial bee numbers dropped last season, she said.

"We were close to onemillion hives so the fact they have dropped is telling, although hobbyists have increased."

She said strong honey prices and export growth would offset some of the production losses.

Last season’s $482million in exports — on the back of strong manuka demand, New Zealand’s health food reputation and Covid-19 disruption — was a record.

The Ministry for Primary Industries is predicting this will drop to $460million for the 2022 season.

Ms Kos said honey exporters also expected overseas demand might slow slightly.

"The other side of the equation is we’ve seen the huge growth in horticulture for pollination and this is critical. If income drops in honey there is still strong demand for pollination services."

Beekeepers, meanwhile, remain baffled with the ruling by the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office against New Zealand’s application to trademark the term Manuka Honey.

The Manuka Charitable Trust chairman is considering its options on a decision that was "out of step" with existing indigenous IP frameworks.

Ms Kos said the manuka industry was working towards an appeal after a "really disappointing" ruling.

Beekeepers remained hopeful that common sense would prevail, she said.

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