Speech to the Apiculture New Zealand National Conference

  • Jo Goodhew
Primary Industries

E aku rangatira, tēnā koutou katoa. Ka nui te honore ki te mihi ki a koutou.

I would like to start by acknowledging:

  • Apiculture New Zealand and the newly elected board members
  • Scott Gallacher, Deputy-Director General, Regulatory & Assurance, MPI

It is a pleasure to be here today at the first ever Apiculture New Zealand National Conference.

It is great to see the establishment of Apiculture New Zealand, and the unification of the apiculture industry that this represents.

The industry is now well placed to grow and prosper, and I’m looking forward to working alongside a strong and cohesive industry body.

This makes it an ideal time to look to the future, and to explore ways in which industry and Government can work together to build a strong foundation for a sustainable, well-functioning and world-renowned apiculture sector.


Apiculture Industry

The apiculture industry plays a vital role in the Government’s aim to double the value of primary sector exports by 2025.

New Zealand is the world’s third largest exporter of honey by value, yet it ranks 16th as a global volume supplier. This reflects the premium price that New Zealand honey attracts.

Last year the estimated value of honey exports was $223 million. Growth in New Zealand’s honey exports, particularly to Asia, is expected to continue with strong global demand for quality honey continuing to drive price increases.

MPI is working hard in partnership with industry to support export growth in the honey industry through a number of initiatives such as the High Performance Mānuka Plantations project, which has set about lifting the value of New Zealand’s mānuka honey industry towards a target of $1.2 billion per annum by 2028.

A key part of the programme looks at researching plant survival and growth, apiary performance, the effects of pests and weeds and how plants grow in various conditions. The findings will have significant benefits in helping us increase the value of the mānuka honey industry.

Another way MPI is partnering with the industry is through our Regional Economic Development work. This work includes training and employment opportunities for 11 Work and Income clients, in order to develop Northland College’s mānuka plantation site.

Thirty hectares of mānuka will initially be planted on Northland College land – an initiative that provides current and future employment opportunities for Kaikohe people. By 2017, we expect to extend this to 100 hectares.


NZ Brand

New Zealand honey is a high profile export that is closely associated with the New Zealand brand of high quality, safe and authentic food. Ensuring the integrity of that brand is a key driver for MPI.

As Minister for Food Safety I am determined to ensure that New Zealand honey continues to be authentic, trusted and sustainable, and to provide both domestic and overseas consumers a high level of confidence in the honey they buy.


The importance of food protection in the honey industry

A key part of this is food protection. When we talk about food protection we are talking about both ensuring the safety of consumers and making sure the integrity of our foods is upheld and it is protected from deliberate acts of contamination or tampering. In being able to protect our food from these risks we are able to sustain the reputation that our honey industry enjoys with key trading partners.

New Zealand has an excellent reputation for food safety, but this hasn’t happened by accident. It is hard won, built on a long history of New Zealand producing safe and high quality food, and is underpinned by a robust regulatory system. Government and industry must work together to protect the NZ brand by ensuring that New Zealand’s food safety system remains world-leading across all of the primary sector, including apiculture.

In order to achieve this, both the Government and the apiculture industry need to focus on four key areas – food safety, food quality, food fraud and food defence. We need to nurture a strong culture of ownership of each of these dimensions by all parties. Only by commitment to excellence in all four areas can we ensure the integrity of our product.

First we must ensure the safety of honey sold to consumers – both domestic and international.

Second, businesses must ensure unfailingly high quality standards. I encourage honey producers to continue the focus on quality that has ensured that New Zealand honey products receive premium prices around the world. To do this, MPI carries out careful and routine testing for residues and the honey industry needs to remain vigilant to ensure there is nothing in New Zealand honey that could be harmful to consumers.

Third, we must prevent any hint of fraud in our production and marketing of honey. Food fraud consists of deliberate fraudulent activities for economic advantage, including the adulteration of products, mislabelling, and counterfeiting. Our mānuka honey science programme is working towards a robust scientific definition of mānuka honey, our premium honey export. The definition will assist greatly to provide assurances for product authenticity and integrity.

In addition, we are continuously reviewing and updating the requirements for honey production and export. MPI is currently revising the export requirements to ensure that it is able to provide appropriate assurances as to the purity of honey exports.

Finally, we must also be vigilant in defending honey products against deliberate and malicious tampering. In this space, all players in the supply chain have a role to play to protect the integrity of New Zealand honey products. Businesses can protect their products from tampering or contamination by having the right processes and safety culture in place.

Having well managed processes will allow companies to effectively monitor every aspect of their supply chain and respond quickly to any issues. Traceability is also key, knowing where your products come from and having the ability to trace products in the event of a recall is important.

We are also working to reinforce the integrity of New Zealand exports and uphold New Zealand’s well-earned reputation as a trusted and credible trading partner. In February, we introduced new requirements supporting the export of bee products, which will see increased verification and enhanced product traceability.

Furthermore, bee health is an important area and MPI provides guidance on good beekeeping practice to minimise the risk of contaminants and has collaborated with industry on the recent bee health survey.

We are also ensuring that robust biosecurity systems are in place, and undertaking active surveillance for exotic bee pests and diseases, while also seeking to increase awareness and education amongst beekeepers and others of the importance of managing biosecurity risks.


The importance of partnership

At the heart of all this is strong industry / government partnership.

The key to successful regulation and policy is a trusted partnership with industry with a shared commitment to pursuit of the highest standards of safety, quality, sustainability and authenticity.

For government and regulators this involves supporting industry to achieve its goals. For business it means adopting business practices of the highest standards.

By working together we can ensure that New Zealand honey continues to be a sought after, trusted and high-quality product that is backed by robust regulation and policy standards. In doing so we can achieve the best possible outcomes for the industry and for the New Zealand Brand.

Thank you very much for your time today.

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.