Australia's Manuka honey makers have joined forces with peak body Australian Beekeeping to promote their product and fend off a New Zealand Manuka name claim.

The Australian Honey Bee Industry Council (AHBIC) - the Peak Industry Body for the Australian Beekeeping in Australia - has announced its funding of the Australian Manuka Honey Association (AMHA).

The AMHA was formed in October last year following an attempt by New Zealand producers to trademark Manuka Honey.

The AHBIC and the AMHA saidthe partnership came in response to New Zealand bid to restrict other countries from using the term ‘Manuka Honey’, and to strengthen the Australian Manuka Honey category as a whole.

Manuka honey is derived from the tea tree, and is believed to be native to Australia and to have migrated to New Zealand.

“At present, a group within New Zealand is trying to trade mark the term ‘Manuka Honey’ globally. The suggestion that only honey from New Zealand can be described as ‘Manuka’ is not credible and is strongly refuted by the Australian honey industry,” AHBIC executive director Trevor Weatherhead said.

“Leptospermum scoparium is believed to have originated from Tasmania. Since beekeeping was introduced into Australia, we have had a long history of producing Manuka honey and have been selling Manuka from Australia for many years.”

AMHA chairman Paul Callander said, “We would much prefer to work with New Zealand in partnership than argue about a descriptive term.

“As long as Australia is allowed to use the term ‘Australian Manuka’, we have no issues and would work with New Zealand to commit to a co-funded global marketing campaign telling the world about the health benefits of Manuka from both Australia and New Zealand”.

“Interestingly, the US IP office has now twice rejected the NZ application on the basis that ‘Manuka’ is a descriptive term only, indicating the honey is derived from Leptospermum – regardless of the region.”

Since its formation, the AMHA has formulated a criteria for defining Australian Manuka Honey; developed a Mark of Authenticity for display on members’ tested and approved products; and assembled a panel of industry authorities including leading scientific experts.