A New Zealand honey producer’s bid to trademark the term “Manuka Honey” has Tasmanian beekeepers pulling on their boxing gloves.
The medically potent manuka honey is produced from the tea tree Leptospermum scoparium, in both New Zealand and Australia, but beekeepers across the Tasman are claiming they produce the only genuine manuka honey.
Trademark information shows Manuka Honey Appellation Society Incorporated applied for the trademark in February 2016, stating that honey “derived from Manuka plant nectar, originate in New Zealand, and that the preparation, production, and/or processing of the goods take place in New Zealand”.
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Tasmanian Beekeepers Association president Lindsay Bourke said New Zealand’s manuka seeds came from Australia and honey was produced here first.
“The original manuka plant came from here and was carried by tradewinds to New Zealand. The tradewinds only flow one way to New Zealand,” Mr Bourke said.
“Bees were brought into Tasmania from England in 1831. We were producing honey eight years before New Zealand even got bees; we called it dark bush honey,” he said.
While bees in Australia and New Zealand have been producing honey from manuka nectar for almost two centuries, the understanding of its power as a medicine has only been a recent discovery.
“It’s been in the past 10-15 years. Before then it was considered low-grade honey because manuka darkened the honey,” Mr Bourke said.
“Then [it was] the lighter the better, but we didn’t know the long chain sugars are in dark honeys, especially leatherwood and manuka. Now we know the importance of good gut flora and the medicinal and health benefits,” he said.
Trans-Tasman beekeepers were the first to promote the medicinal benefits of manuka honey, producing honey that is sold around the world.
“New Zealand gets the highest prices for it in the world. New Zealand is trying to claim it for themselves, but they’re only the second country,” Mr Bourke said.
Tasmania has many manuka trees and the honey sells well.
“Tasmania is well established with manuka; it’s like a weed. Our product is in such high demand we sell everything we produce,” he said.