Local business Kai Iwi Honey is sitting on nearly 30 tonnes of product it can't find a market for and the honey industry is facing a tough season.

This year demand for mānuka honey has slowed and prices for non-mānuka honeys have dropped significantly. The big companies that used to pack honey for smaller producers are reluctant to buy.

The price of mānuka honey that meets the new standard remains stable, but demand has slowed and is not predicted to rise much, Apiculture CEO Karin Kos said.

The price for other monofloral, bush and clover honeys has dropped 25 to 60 per cent.


"We have had about 10 years of constant and quite high increases in price, so it's quite a correction. The mānuka boom increased people's interest in other honeys."

Kai Iwi Honey director Tony Valentine said his business is storing nearly 30 tonnes of honey.

"The packers don't seem to want it. A lot has to do with them having their own supply."

The packers used to mix bush and clover honey with higher-value mānuka honey, but they can't now because the mixtures don't meet the mānuka standard.

People that can't sell to the big packing businesses are now looking to pack their own honey. Kai Iwi Honey is looking for other ways to sell what it has.

The mānuka boom attracted a lot of new beekeepers, Valentine said, but a boom can turn to a bust.

"It was like the log market and dairy farming. It's good money so everyone jumps on board. The log markets are now folded and you don't see anyone doing dairy conversions now."

He went to the Apiculture Conference in Rotorua in June, and heard stories about beekeepers going bankrupt and even commiting suicide.


Kos has heard of people leaving the industry, but said it was too soon to see major effects. There are nearly 44,000 more registered hives now than last year, there are still lots of hobby beekeepers and land is still being bought and planted in mānuka.

The honey season goes from October until about February, and the 2018-19 season was a mixed one. Production was good in some regions and poor in others.

About 1000 people went to the conference in June. The industry was clearly hurting, Kos said, but attendees were determined to work together to find new markets.

They voted not to set a levy on all honey sold and use the money for research and development. It would have been a big ask in a bad year, Kos said, but they are likely to revisit that decision.

The mānuka boom has focused attention too much on mānuka, she said. It's time to research the qualities of other monofloral honeys, such as rewarewa and kānuka, and develop new markets.

"We have got to make these honeys more well known internationally."

In 2018, the United Kingdom, Australia, China and the United States were the biggest buyers of New Zealand honey. Honey exports earned $348 million.

This year a harvest of 20,000 tonnes and $360m of export earnings is expected.

Annual earnings are expected to even out at about $380m by 2010-21. In 2016 the National-led government wanted annual export earnings to increase to $1.2 billion by 2026.

Despite the "setback and correction", Kos is optimistic about the future of the industry.

"Long term, the outlook is still really strong," she said.