Historic: Honey Marketing - Part 5

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The Honey Marketing Authority (HMA)

Not long after a National Govt came into power in 1949 the signal to the beekeeping industry was clear - “tell us what you want, but we’re getting out of this entirely”. The Govt still wanted to be able to influence marketing policies, but didn’t want to own the honey packing plant itself.

Like several other efforts of those times, it took several attempts to get it right. The first version of the HMA Regulations were so far from what was agreed that beekeepers were angry and offended. One example: one of ‘this must be part of it’ agreements, by all parties, was that the NBA would receive funding to act as the industry representative body. When the regulations came out, it was a “may” rather than a “shall”. The Minister swept all criticism under the carpet, and after several years, the HMA was operating as it should.

With the HMA formation, the Honey Control Board went out of existence, and the HMA took over full control of the export market. It had an agreement with Kimpton’s in England, the sole agent for the HMA, that the HMA would actively work to oppose exports by other beekeepers. It ensured that Kimpton’s had exclusive access to the NZ crop, and then only though the HMA.

The HMA, like the IMD and NZ Honey Co. and the HPA before it, had to suffer from variations of seasons, but also the variation in supply. If beekeepers thought they could get a better return by selling to a packer, there may be no loyalty shown to the HMA.

By the late 1960s, the supplies of honey to the HMA were diminished enough that it was becoming a real problem. The packing plant needed a certain amount to be economic. And then came a bad honey season on top of that.

In 1968, the HMA bought out three major honey packing operations in the South Island, to some extent ensuring a future supply of honey from the suppliers of those packers. But it brought the HMA more directly into direct competition with the packers, who felt it was not fair competition.

The HMA did still have the exclusive right to export honey, and that would be the downfall. By the 1970s, many beekeepers were keen to undertake exporting, but the only products allowed by the HMA were comb honey and packed lines of honey. That is, NZ beekeepers were not allowed to export bulk honey.

After the 1979 NBA Conference, where the desire to dismantle the HMA was quite clear, there were several years before the proceeds from the HMA - the packing plant in Parnell, stocks of honey and the equalisation fund - the Seal’s Levy money - became the subject of argument. Following arbitration, it was agreed that the fund should be used to benefit all beekeepers, not just the suppliers of the HMA.

And after several years of being loaned to a new Honey Co-op, that money became the Honey Industry Trusts that continue to benefit all beekeepers in the industry still today!

The HMA era lasted from 1954 until 1983…
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Hawkes Bay
Most of what Nick has written about was before my time and even the honey marketing authority was at a time when I was busy beekeeping but not really involved in the political side. My family used to export a lot of comb honey but even that had to be approved by a honey grader.
On the local market we used to compete against honey that was subsidised by the seals levy that we had to pay.
During the time of the HMA it was cheaper to buy hives than to make them .
There have been good times and bad since the demise of the HMA but for me at least there of be a lot more good than bad.
The current hard times are actually a bit nostalgic for me as they remind me of my my early years in beekeeping.