The New Zealand Honey Wars

Honey that’s produced by bees who feed on the Manuka flower of New Zealand has become highly valued for its medicinal properties because it stimulates the formation of new blood capillaries and the growth of cells that are responsible for tissue repair after injury. In fact, Manuka honey is in such high demand that beekeepers regularly report hive thefts, vandalism and poisonings, along with verbal threats and physical beatings. It has gotten so bad that beekeepers now travel in packs for protection to work remote hives. Some have even set up CCTV cameras at some of the most frequently targeted sites, while others have gone to placing GPS trackers in the hive boxes. The global Manuka honey market is valued at $353 million and is expected to reach $751 million by the end of 2027. Considering that it sells for anywhere from $50 to $100 for an 8-ounce jar, it’s not your average honey. Yet, it’s in high enough demand that thieves ravage honey sites regularly. The expense and danger combined has led many beekeepers to give up their businesses, saying it’s not worth their lives to produce Manuka honey. Bill Guest, who runs the Panguru Farm near Kaitaia said he focuses more on his vegetable garden and largely keeps away from the farm’s 200 hives. “I feel so bad for the beekeepers today,” said Bill, who returned from World War II with the sole ambition of building up his hives. “It has become so nasty now, I don’t like to think about it. The sweetness has gone.”