Conditions for manuka honey production so far this season have been mixed, following on the two previous substandard seasons, Manuka Health chief executive John Kippenberger said.

He said the effects of heavy rain in the southern half of the North Island late last year have been partly offset by favourable conditions in Northland and Taranaki.

"Most of the harvest is still in the process of coming off the hives, so this will take several weeks to play out in terms of both yields and grade (quality)," he said.

"Many people across the industry are watching the current flowering and nectar flows around Taranaki to see if this region is able to pull back some of the losses across the lower North Island and parts of the South Island due to the weather impact during flowering," he told the Herald.


Manuka Health, the country's second biggest player after NZX-listed Comvita, was taken over last year by Guoco Group, part of the Malaysian conglomerate Hong Leong for an undisclosed sum. The sale went through early this month.

Kippenberger said warm, settled weather from Northland to the Central Plateau had benefited of the manuka honey crop.

"The flipside to that is that we really did see some very heavy weather at the critical flowering point in the lower North island, with torrential rainfalls several weeks ago," he said.

"Without a doubt that has had an impact on some of the flows around the lower North Island," he said.

"Everyone is holding their breath to see how the rest of the country performs over the last weeks of the season," he said.

The two previous seasons have wrecked havoc with Comvita's earnings.

For the year to last June, Comvita's net profit after tax came to $8.2 million, down from the previous year's profit of $9.8m.

The company said at the time the second poor honey harvest in a row had a negative impact of $6.2m on its earnings in that year.


Comvita's share price has halved over the last 12 months.

Early this month, Comvita traded at $4.52, down from $9.15 in January last year, due mostly to its removal from the NZX-50 index but also on concerns about the harvest.

"Comvita's honey harvest has been below expectations in the last few years, so the market is wary about this year's harvest," Shane Solly, portfolio manager at Harbour Asset Management, said.

The stock has since recovered a little ground, trading today at $4.70.

In December, S&P Dow Jones said Comvita would be removed from the NZX50 Index and the NZX Mid Cap Index and replaced by Vista Group.

Comvita said at the time it was clear that there was a lack of understanding of the short term impact on the Comvita share price of its removal from the Indices, as a result of institutions selling shares to comply with their respective investment mandates.

The company expects to announce its first half result on February 26, when it will issue an update for the season, which ends in March.