Competition from rival firms bringing bee hives to Taranaki has cost one manuka honey business around $500,000, its managing director claims.
Barton Holdings recently finished its third season of operation, producing about 100 tonnes of manuka honey, up substantially on the 60 tonnes achieved in the first season, managing director Brett Mascull said.
But Mascull said bees brought in from outside the region to take advantage of Taranaki’s late-flowering manuka meant his hives were producing less honey because of the competition for food – a complaint that has been made by other beekeepers in the region.
Mascull has about 344 manuka-covered hectares beside Lake Rotorangi.
He put 250 hives on the land, because he estimated that was what the property needed, he said.
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“But, straight across the lake, an out of town company loaded 250 beehives right along the lake edge. Our beehives have basically made stuff all honey. Five hundred beehives trying to compete means none of us win.”
Mascull estimates as many as 50 beekeepers from other areas of the country bring their hives to Taranaki between January and March to make the most of Taranaki’s manuka being the last to flower.
The company has hives on property in eastern Taranaki back country that can only be accessed by helicopter, and the bees fly up to five kilometres from their hives to feast on pure manuka nectar, he said.
Outside companies do deals with farmers and put their hives on the company’s boundary.
“Their bees compete with ours for a finite nectar source over a very short season. Bees don’t recognise boundaries. Truckloads of beehives have been coming in.”
This is where ethics should come into it, he said.
“If a person doesn’t have manuka on their land then ethically they shouldn’t be allowing beekeepers to put beehives on their land, unfortunately money sways people’s thinking.
Last month, Chris Halton and Stephen Black, two New Plymouth beekeepers, warned that the competition was threatening the viability of local hives.
Halton said a company based in the Wairarapa had had staff doorknocking landowners around New Plymouth’s perimeter for places to put hives.
Landowners who thought they were helping bees were actually helping to starve them, he warned.