The Miere Coalition, which represents Maori honey interests, supports the UMF Honey Association's bid to trademark Manuka Honey and says the industry group needs to work with Maori to make it successful.
Last week, the industry-based manuka honey lobby said it was filing for a certification trade mark covering "Manuka Honey" which will be free to use on New Zealand honey made by bees foraging on manuka flowers. The association is seeking to protect the use of the name because imitations are damaging the brand at a time when demand in markets such as China is growing.
Victor Goldsmith, spokesman for Miere Coalition, which represents a consortium of Maori landowners, beekeepers, retailers and various iwi interests in the honey sector, said the group supports the move to protect the name of manuka honey, but wants the association to work with Maori to gain support.
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"Maori have a long association with manuka, which has numerous uses," Goldsmith said. "Maori need to be involved in any discussions in respect of trademarking the name. We need to protect one of our taonga (treasures) from misuse for the benefit of Aotearoa New Zealand."
Under Wai 262, a Waitangi Treaty claim lodged in 1991, representatives from six iwi sought to protect Maori culture, identity and traditional knowledge in New Zealand law. This included a claim on flora and fauna that were significant to Maori tradition and culture.
Goldsmith said UMFHA's push to trademark the manuka honey name did have relevance to the Wai 262 claim, but he suspected "the government has no genuine desire to be involved and will default to the industry".
John Rawcliffe, spokesman for UMFHA, agreed there was the potential for a Maori claim issue, but the push behind the trademark was to protect the kiwi product.
"There is an iwi or Maori issue and likewise I'm sure we can stand on the same ground and say we must protect this for all," Rawcliffe said. "We don't want someone in Timbuktu selling manuka honey. We want to protect this for all of New Zealand, for those who have the land and those who have the beekeeping skills and for New Zealand beekeepers to grow this industry collectively. The classification won't be owned by the association, it will be owned by New Zealand. We recognise that is fundamental to the proposition."
The push, similar to moves made by France to protect the name 'champagne' and Scotland to protect 'whisky', would restrict the name to the region the product comes from and came after feedback from the industry, consumers and offshore regulators.
Asian demand for manuka honey has seen the price for all New Zealand honey increase, amid a global honey shortage. In the year to August, New Zealand had $249.8 million in honey exports, up 34 percent from the same period a year earlier, and more than double the value exported in 2012.