Huti Watson is a trustee on Tarere 2 Trust, and in November last year was appointed by the Trust to represent their roopu on the National Miere Coalition’s delegation to Asia. The tour took in four different Asian markets – Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tokyo and Shanghai.
Huti is also a board member of Ngati Porou Hauora, and has extensive experience in economic development through her consultancy mahi. In the following article Huti shares what she learned on her visit to these major Asian markets where demand for our Manuka honey resource is high. She also shares some of her personal thoughts about how growing the economy of Ngati Porou through the Miere Collective can help bene- fit two kaupapa she cares deeply about – job creation and the health of our people.
Exporting Ngati Porou
My experience on the journey was amazing, we were exposed to a range of people involved in the industry including business investors, marketers, retailers, exporters and distributors. We got a snap shot view about what each of those markets looked like, how each of them differed and what opportunities they offered.
The key learning that I took away was that there was a high demand for quality manuka honey in Asia, and that Asia was interested in the uniquely Maori story. The marketing pitch, “Land to Brand” and the idea of being able to track manuka honey from the market shelf back to its origin so that buyers were able to “look through” from the market to where the honey came from, was a high- light for me. I’d love to think that one day someone standing in a Shanghai supermarket can, through using the latest technology, trace the honey that they hold in their hand back to Tarere.
For me China was a highlight. We went to a supermarket, and saw a 250gm UMF 25 Manuka honey priced at $NZ300. That’s $1200 per kilo! The challenge though is how to participate in the entire value chain so we are able to share in these returns. A key consideration was that Chinese aren’t interested in cheaper, lower priced products, so high end, quality has to be the name of our game if we were to take our product to that particular market.
I was really impressed with how Poutama Trust’s Richard Jones brought us all together in what he calls “open source collaboration”. This allowed Maori players in the industry to meet and mix and some are already working together leveraging off each other to produce better business outcomes for themselves.
I am fully supportive of the Ngati Porou Miere initiative, and am looking ahead to how and whether Ngati Porou can engage with the wider National Maori Miere Coalition, in taking Maori branded products to the global market. This would be a further exciting chapter in Maori engagement in the manuka honey industry, and would help to fulfill one of my most heartfelt aims – to increase employment at home, for the benefit of our whanau, hapu and iwi.
Growing Ngati Porou
Above: Noema Hunt is employed as a bee-keeper for Natural Solutions in Te Araroa, and as part of his mahi looks after the hives on Tarere 2 Station Trust. As a beneficiary of Tarere, through his grandmother, Kaa Te Mihi Puketapu, Noema takes “extra special” care of Tarere’s bees.
Personally I have always felt strongly about the idea of farming Manuka honey on the East Coast. I live in Te Araroa and I have two criteria in my head for anything we do here, it has to:
1. Not destroy our environment (Kaitiekitanga).
2. Not be detrimental to the people in any way. (Kaitiekitanga).
Manuka honey is natural to our environment, and fits those values nicely.
We have high deprivation and un-met need in our region. Poor social and economic circumstances affect health throughout life and is cumulative. Ngati Porou’s involvement in the manuka industry will not only develop our economic capacity but will have knock on effects on peoples health just by virtue of increasing household income, and thereby reducing hardship.
I look for what can put money in peoples’ pockets, so I believe the manuka honey industry is something that is very doable for us at home, it excites me. I believe that the Ngati Porou Miere Collective is a tool which can help to enable and bring greater prosperity to our whanau and communities.
My son Noema is a bee-keeper for Natural Solutions which is a company in Te Araroa, and in his role also looks after the Tarere hives. Noema returned home from Australia a few years ago and it took some time for him to find sustainable employment that he enjoys, but I’m glad he persisted. As Noema is also a beneficiary of Tarere, he takes extra special care of Tarere’s bees.
We hope all the landblocks on the Coast join us, and put their resources into the Ngati Porou Miere Collective. Potentially, we can have our own extraction plant if we reach a certain number of hives and that could be done quite quickly if landowners firstly decided to move from passive to active players in the industry, and then started to build their capacity to farm their own honey.
“Take the honey not the money”, well the proof is in the pudding, Tarere was able to make this happen last season by reinvesting honey proceeds back into their own hives, took the honey instead of the money from their beekeepers, and quadrupled last seasons honey income by doing so. I am committed to helping others to make this happen.
To learn more about the Ngati Porou Miere Collective please read the following articles originally published in the July 2015 edition of Nati Link.