Once they couldn’t give it away, now it’s liquid gold. Local legend has it that manuka honey was once so hard to sell that a Great Barrier Island man might have dropped his entire harvest into the sea, so low was the price he was offered for it. It’s hard to imagine today, with this unique New Zealand product now a $140 million industry and in demand all around the world. But not long ago beekeepers were literally giving the stuff away.
If you are interested in honey, then this new book comes highly recommended. Manuka, the biography of an extraordinary honey tells the incredible rags-to-riches tale of how Kiwi ingenuity converted manuka from a much maligned commodity to a medicinal and culinary marvel.
While governments of much larger economies like the US and Europe supported their honey industries with price stabilisation schemes and subsidies, New Zealand farmers learned not only to stand on their own feet, but to develop a product that had wings.
A canny combination of marketing magic and scientific determination saw the value of honey exports from New Zealand grow at a compound rate of 30% between 2000 and 2010. Our country receives a dramatically higher average price for its honeys than its competitors in the international marketplace and one of the reasons for this is manuka honey.
Manuka honey is used in cosmetics as well as a natural health product. But perhaps its greatest coup was to gain acceptance by mainstream medicine. Now FDA approved, leading hospitals use wound dressings containing manuka honey.
Manuka: the biography of an extraordinary honey is the tale of an inquisitive university lecturer who found something totally unexpected in a product everyone had written off. And it’s an entertaining account of the way that this simple discovery magically caught the international media’s attention, helping some enterprising New Zealanders with a love of bees to develop manuka honey-based products and take them to the rest of the world.
Author Cliff Van Eaton is a well-known writer on beekeeping subjects and is co-author of two books on bee diseases used by beekeepers in New Zealand and overseas. For over 30 years he worked as a beekeeping adviser and consultant in New Zealand, and has also assisted beekeepers in countries as diverse as the Solomon Islands, Uruguay and Vietnam.
Manuka: the biography of an extraordinary honey is available from www.exislepublishing.co.nz and wherever good books are sold (RRP $34.99).
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