February 19, 2017
A company based in Western Australia aims to harness a strong global demand by developing a “Manuka Province” in the southwest area of the state, something that can effectively compete against New Zealand’s global honey industry. The company has chosen the Yarloop area, which was devastated by a bushfire a year prior, as its choice location. Managing Director Paul Callander said that five trial sites across the southwest region—Great Southern, Wheatbelt, the shires of Harvey, Waroona, and Peel—showed the greatest promise.
Callander has imported Leptospermum seed varieties from the north island of New Zealand into Western Australia. Callander and his colleagues are growing one million trees in Manjimup nursery. They have also been working closely with universities to try and build a database of all Leptospermum varieties around. They hope to partner with the honeybee industry to grow a sustainable Manuka population.
"In the areas across the southwest, we planted in different soil types — clay, gravel and sand — [and] they've done particularly well in the sandy country," Callander said. "Around the Harvey area, for example, that Bassendean sand, they're a pioneer species so they go down the capillary root action quite quickly with their roots. So as long as they can get established in the water they're away."
However, by Callander’s assessment, there’s more to premium Manuka honey than strong plant growth. Callander believes the medical grade honey results will allow the company to participate in the premium end of the market by supplying Manuka honey for medical, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and nutraceutical industry applications in Australia and other nations. With New Zealand being the biggest producer of Manuka honey, this “Manuka Province” offers Australia, especially Western Australia, an edge in the market.
Local producers and community members believe this is a great opportunity to develop a new industry. Kim Sears, who lives in Western Australia, lost her family farm after last year’s bushfires. "The fire, even though it completely wiped out our farm and we lost everything, it opened up an opportunity," she said. Sears and her family have experienced success and believe the Manuka industry could reinvigorate the area. "It's already got a bit of a groundswell, and a lot of people are quite excited about it, and the council are very excited about it as well. For the industry to develop in this area, you've got all sorts of things that could happen — there's people that are looking for a new beginning after the fire.”
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