Bill Savage of WildCape Manuka Honey has been keeping bees for 40 years, but the industry is still providing some curveballs to keep him on his toes.
WildCape Manuka Honey produces multi-ﬂoral honey, multi-ﬂoral manuka honey, and mono-ﬂoral manuka honey throughout the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) range of six up to about 20.
The UMF rating indicates the strength of the special properties found in manuka honey and is graded based on a honey’s unique signature compounds.
The manuka honey industry has been plagued by low grade and fraudulent honey for many years, and has been in a holding pattern for the past two to three years while a new Ministry for Primary Industries standard was developed to control it.
The standard for mono-ﬂoral and multi-ﬂoral manuka honey came into effect in February, but the industry is still waiting for a decision by the UMF honey association on what quality mark to put on lower grade manuka honey.
“We expect 70% of our honey will meet the mono standard and 30% will meet the multi standard in an average year,” Bill says.
“We are developing our own manuka forest on 1200ha of hill country where we’ve been planting 200,000 trees a year for the past three years.
“In another four years we expect that to be fully planted and will put more of our product into the really high UMF grade.” WildCape’s own manuka forest will provide the company with security of supply.
“We use other people’s land and that is starting to become at risk,” Bill says. “Being able to secure our own forest means we should be able to put 1000 hives on there in the future.”
WildCape has now started planting some more blocks into manuka in partnership with land owners, as well as increasing its packing operation.
WildCape currently runs 5500 hives and offers the only single source UMF manuka honey harvested exclusively from the East Cape region, which is often regarded as producing some of the ﬁ nest manuka honey in New Zealand.
“The East Cape region’s manuka ﬂowers produce nectar which is naturally high in DHA. The result is manuka honey with consistently higher UMF, and more natural goodness for our customers to enjoy.”
Manuka honey is a highly sought after gift for Asian tourists to take home from New Zealand, and also for Asian immigrants living in New Zealand.
“The Chinese have a branch of ancient medicine called apitherapy which has used honey bee products including propolis, royal jelly, and bee venom for many thousands of years,” Bill says.
“The story ties in really well with Asian culture after Peter Molan working at Waikato University discovered the antibacterial properties unique to Manuka honey.”
While bee populations are declining around the world due to loss of habitat and pesticide use, in New Zealand, the bee population is growing. “This is based mainly on the manuka honey industry,” Bill says.
“It’s a New Zealand story which is fast becoming more of an international story. America is now the second largest market for UMF honey behind China. They all love honey.”
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