Nelson company buys West Coast beekeeping business

Troubled beekeeping business Putake West Coast Ltd -- with Development West Coast as 50% owner -- has been sold.

It was sold yesterday to Nelson-based Rainbow Honey, owned by Philip Cropp. As the sale is still being finalised, it was not immediately clear if DWC would recoup its full investment, including a cash top-up during the past year.

In a statement, DWC cited "significant changes within the apicultural industry".

"The partners in Putake West Coast have been reviewing the operations of the West Coast-based wholesale honey collector/producer. The partners have agreed that it is in the best interests of all parties that the business is sold and have subsequently entered into an agreement with Nelson-based Rainbow Honey."

The Coal Creek site will continue as the base for the team on the ground. Blenheim-based Putake had four staff members last summer.

Putake Group has instead chosen to focus on building its queen rearing business based in Marlborough.

Development West Coast will exit the industry.

Putake director Renee De Luca said due to significant changes within the industry over the past few years, domestic wholesale honey had become unviable as a business.

"Rainbow Honey has several retails brands domestically and internationally where the honey will be channelled," she said.

"We have had an excellent working relationship with Development West Coast and appreciated all the support our landowners and the local community have given Putake over the past four years."

DWC chief executive Chris Mackenzie said while it was disappointed that Putake West Coast had not grown as envisaged, the trust was pleased it was able to establish the business and see it through some challenging times.

The sale would ensure the sustainability of the business here on the Coast.

In 2015, DWC invested $1 million in the company, and subsequently invested a further $292,000. The 2018-19 annual report shows it got a $50,000 cash injection this year. It also repaid $50,000.

That means DWC owned 50% of the company.

Putake was founded in 2011 by Renee and Dale De Luca. They told NZ House and Garden in February last year, during a feature on their Blenheim house, that they stopped selling their honey under the Putake brand in 2015 and focused on the wholesale side of the business.

In June 2016, they formed a 50-50 joint venture with the health food company, Comvita.

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