New Zealand honey industry executives have gone totally troppo in a recent burst of patriotic fervour over manuka honey.
John Rawcliffe, general manager of New Zealand’s UMF honey industry association, told online news site Stuff.co.nz last week that the word Manuka has “ a massive personal meaning to Maori [people].”<?p>
He said that Australian honey producers are “taking part of the [Maori] creation story and bastardizing it.”
However Rawcliffe’s ridiculous claim appears to have little support from anyone and his characterization of the meaning and significance of Manuka honey for Maori’s is certainly disputed by other New Zealanders.
For example a NZ parliamentary inquiry into the honey industry early last year was told by Harvey Bell, chairman of the Waipakuranui Incorporation, that “Mānuka honey was not a “traditional” remedy in the Māori medicinal arsenal.”
Bell also told the inquiry that under WTO rules manuka honey is a generic descriptive term, and cannot be trademarked.
He said a better approach might be to add an extra letter á, and use Maanuka honey as a brand for specifically New Zealand sourced leptospermum scoparium honey.
Bell’s advice appears to have been largely ignored however, with UMF Honey Association officials preferring to pursue an expensive international effort to gain a so-called certification trademark for Manuka honey.
Thus far the effort has failed in most countries where it has been tried, with the sole exception of the UK.
Moreover Australia’s honey producers are backing an appeal against the UK decision, and the ongoing BREXIT imbroglio has also devalued its significance.
Nevertheless the UMF Honey Association’s efforts are proving expensive and in a recent meeting at parliament house the NZ government was reputedly asked to contribute more than $NZ5million to cover the Association’s projected legal fees.
Early indications are that the NZ government is less than keen.
Perhaps the NZ government is mindful of the charges of trade policy hypocrisy that would inevitably follow if it invested in a proposal designed to lock Australian Manuka honey producers out of international markets.
After all, for reasons which don’t stand much scrutiny, Australian honey is still banned from export into New Zealand.Image by Davy Bernardo from Pixabay