John Weekes is an NZME News Service reporter based in Wellington.

High prices drive honey thefts

Honey soars in value as bee numbers plunge and recognition of food's health benefits rise.

Alexi Skvortsov, pictured at his apartment, is accused of stealing honey worth hundreds of dollars. Photo / Herald on Sunday
Alexi Skvortsov, pictured at his apartment, is accused of stealing honey worth hundreds of dollars. Photo / Herald on Sunday

More than $1100 worth of honey has been stolen from three Auckland supermarkets in the past month as prices soar.

A man the police allege is responsible for the thefts, Alexi Skvortsov, 34, appeared in the Auckland District Court on Tuesday.

He is accused of being the person responsible for the theft of honey from the Countdown stores in LynnMall, Blockhouse Bay and Mt Roskill on the same day - April 24 - and from the LynnMall store sometime between April 4 and 24.

Waitemata Honey director Neil Stuckey said prices for many honey varieties were at their highest following a global decline in bee population and rising customer demand.

The demand is being driven by mounting evidence of health benefits. Australian scientists found that honey made from the pollen of New Zealand's native manuka tree is measurably better for fighting bacteria in wound infections than other honeys.

The University of Technology, Sydney study published in the PLOS ONE science journal in February also found evidence that bacteria do not become resistant to honey as they do to antibiotics.

Some brands of manuka honey are retailing at $25 for 500g and one website has a variety called UMF10+ Manuka for $77.50 per kg.

"I think the prices will stay up," Stuckey said. "There's severe pressure on bees worldwide and there's just not enough honey being produced."

He said there was worldwide demand for manuka honey in particular. In some cases, consumers could be buying cheap honey for inflated prices at roadside stalls.

When the Herald on Sunday asked Skvortsov on Friday about the charges, he said, "I understand that it's interesting," but declined to comment further.

It is not clear where the stolen honey was intended to end up.

A Countdown spokeswoman said the alleged thefts were "isolated" incidents and Skvortsov was not an employee.

He will re-appear on May 20 at the Waitakere District Court for a registrar's list hearing.

He also faces a shoplifting-related charge at the North Shore District Court on May 16.

- Herald on Sunday

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