Manuka honey could open new horizons for Aussie beekeepers

Image credit: flickr user: Andy Murray

Australian beekeepers could start earning up to $30 for a kilogram of honey if new research confirms that honey produced from various species of Australian manuka trees have antibacterial properties, reports The Land.

Image credit: flickr user: Andy Murray
Image credit: flickr user: Andy Murray

The research, which is led by the ithree institute at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), will aim to identify which of Australia’s 83 different species of manuka make the most therapeutically active honey and pinpoint their habitats in Australia.

Currently, the majority of medical grade honey – which is being used for the treatment of wounds and skin infections due to its potent antibacterial and healing properties – is sourced from New Zealand, where two species of the manuka tree are earning the industry an estimated $75 million a year, which is likely to increase to $1 billion over the next 10 years.

Honey Bee & Pollination R&D Program spokesperson Ben Hooper said each of Australia’s 83 species of manuka needs to be investigated to measure antibacterial properties before its honey can be incorporated into commonly used wound gels and dressings.

“We know the science is accurate, but we have only just scratched the surface when it comes to honey research in Australia. When it is determined which manuka species provide the necessary qualities, research tells us the Australian honey sector has the potential to increase its profits by as much as 50 per cent a year,” he said.

“Antibiotic resistance is a global health problem and the industry pipeline for new antibiotics is running dry. Honey is steadily emerging in clinics as an alternative treatment for various infections. Critically, unlike antibiotics, bacteria cannot develop resistance to manuka honey and Australian beekeepers stand to capitalise on this growing international market.”

The research funded by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), Capilano Honey Ltd and Comvita Ltd under the Honey Bee & Pollination R&D Program, which is jointly funded by RIRDC and Horticultural Australia Limited (HAL).