Bee excited, honey is liquid gold
27 Oct 2014
Australian beekeepers could be set for a boom, earning up to $30/kg for honey if new research confirms honey produced from various species of Australian manuka trees have antibacterial properties.
Honey is increasingly being used for the treatment of wounds and skin infections due to its potent antibacterial and healing properties, including major infections like Golden Staph, E-coli and superbugs now becoming untreatable with modern antibiotics.
Currently, the majority of medical grade honey is sourced from New Zealand, where two species of Leptospermum (the manuka tree) are earning an estimated $75 million a year. This is likely increase to $1 billion over the next 10 years.
Australia has 83 different species of manuka trees, leaving the door ajar for our beekeepers to seriously grow their profit margins if this project can systematically identify which species make the most therapeutically active honey and where they are located in Australia.
The research is being led by the ithree institute at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). It is 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).
Honey Bee & Pollination R&D Program spokesperson Ben Hooper said each Australian species of manuka needs to be investigated thoroughly 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.
“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.
“UTS researchers, and their co-investigators at the University of Sydney and the University of the Sunshine Coast, believe Australian honey is as potent as, if not more potent than, the New Zealand variety and Australian beekeepers will inevitably be the beneficiaries from this ground-breaking research,” Mr Hooper said.
For more information about the Honey Bee and Pollination Program, go to www.rirdc.gov.au/honeybee-pollination