Coast beekeepers to tap into lucrative manuka honey market
SUNSHINE Coast beekeepers are all abuzz with new opportunities to tap into the lucrative market for manuka honey.
The Coast is emerging as a prime location to harvest the medicinal product, which retails for about $240 a kilo.
The University of the Sunshine Coast is involved in a nationwide study to identify which trees make the most therapeutically active honey and where they are located in Australia.
For Coast beekeepers the research could open the door to an international market with the potential to increase the industry's profits by as much as 50% a year.
Reseachers have reached out to the Sunshine Coast Beekeepers Group to collect samples for the study.
Group member and Kunda Park beekeeper Tony L'Estrange said the Coast was ideally suited to benefit from the new market.
"We've got more potential here than they've got in New Zealand," he said.
"New Zealand has two types of Leptospermum (manuka) tree - we have more than 80."
Mr L'Estrange said as drought put pressure on honey production out west, Coast beekeepers were reaping the benefits.
"We're better off on the Coast because we've got a much better rainfall and we've got a wider range of trees," he said.
"I'm selling three times as much now than I was five years ago."
Mr L'Estrange keeps 40 hives on the Coast and considers himself a small-scale hobby producer.
Despite this he has delivered one tonne of honey a year to industry giant Capilano for the past several years.
The research is being jointly funded by Capilano and Comvita, along with the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation and Horticultural Australia Limited.
Lead researcher Professor Liz Harry, from the University of Technology Sydney, said manuka honey from New Zealand was already established as a valuable antibacterial agent.
"Antibiotic resistance is an urgent world health problem," she said.
"In the face of the declining power of antibiotics, honey is increasingly being used as a gel or dressing to treat chronic (slow-healing) wounds.
"Honey has several properties that make it ideal as a treatment for chronic wounds - it has potent antibacterial activity, and bacteria don't appear to become resistant to it.
"This makes sense since honey has evolved for millions of years to resist spoiling - it is the only food that can't be spoiled.
"Manuka honey is a known potent antibacterial honey that is commonly used in these products, but there are legitimate concerns that the demand for manuka honey may outweigh its supply.
"This is the first comprehensive, Australia-wide survey of manuka honey to identify all possible sources and provide as much medicinal honey as possible."