Bushfires hit 2019 Tasmanian leatherwood honey harvest

A combination of bushfires and unusually dry weather conditions are likely to have a serious impact on the 2019 leatherwood honey harvest.

The ancient leatherwood trees accounts for as much as 70% of Tasmania’s honey production, but only flower in January and February.

So anything that affects the trees in January and February is a threat to honey production.

This year bushfires, mainly in the southern and central parts of Tasmanian, have affected many beekeepers.

Yves Ginat, producer of the renowned Miellerie honey, has lost a significant number of his hives.  It has been reported some 20 of his hives were lost to fires in the Lake Pedder area.

Tasmanian Beekeepers Association president Perter Norris, from Heritage Honey, told the ABC that production would be down 75 per cent, making it the worst season in 35 years.

“Leatherwood honey will be scarce for years to come,” he said.

Leatherwood trees are very slow growing, and don’t even begin to flower until they are at least 70 years old.

So any loss of trees to bush fires is a disaster for beekeepers.

They will take years to grow back, if ever.

Rebecca Campbell from Honey Tasmania has also recently raised the alarm, posting to Facebook that one beekeeper lost some 130 hives and many hectares of leatherwood forests were burned

She said that, as a result there will be limited amounts of leatherwood honey this year and to be prepared for price increases not just of leatherwood but of all Tasmanian honeys


Australia's finest and rarest honey. From the Tasmanian Honey Company 750gms of pure Tasmanian leatherwood honey. $19.95 plus freight

Capilano dumps Chinese honey brand – Allowrie

Australia’s largest honey company – Capilano – is abandoning its Allowrie Chinese honey brand.

Chief executive Ben McKee said in a media statement the company released earlier this week that the decision would make things clearer for consumers.

“The decision to retire the Allowrie honey brand will allow greater clarity for consumers…” Dr McKee said.

Presumably McKee is referring to the fact that Australian consumers have long been confused by Capilano’s marketing.

Capilano’s marketing has always claimed the company is dedicated to Australian beekeepers and honey.

But at the same time it has been flooding the Australian market with cheap imported Chinese honey.

Last years highly publicized allegations of adulteration in Allowrie honey were probably also a factor in the company’s decision.

Equally probable is that the fake honey claims were behind Coles supermarket chain’s decision to stop selling Allowrie honey last year.

Another factor may have been be Capilano’s persistent unwillingness to be transparent with Australian consumers about the source of Allowrie honey.

Labelling of Allowrie products never disclosed the country of origin, even though company officials eventually confirmed it was principally imported from China.

This lack of transparency was also a major source of public criticism, and has understandably prompted considerable cynicism about any public statements from the company.

That cynicism will no doubt continue whilst CEO Ben McKee remains at the helm of the company, regardless of whether the company is privately or publicly owned.

Compulsory disclosures to the Australian Stock Exchange late last year revealed that McKee’s joint superannuation got $1.1million in cash from the complicated scheme of arrangement that saw two merchant banks become its owners.

That million dollar plus payout is separate to, and on top of a similar large payment McKee is believed to have earned directly for facilitating the privatization of Australia’s biggest honey company.

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Australia's finest and rarest honey. From the Tasmanian Honey Company 750gms of pure Tasmanian leatherwood honey. $19.95 plus freight

Imported honey can no longer be labelled as Australian organic

Australian Organic Ltd has confirmed that the traditional text accompanying its bud logo can no longer be used on the label of imported honey products.

Details of the change were outlined in a new “Organic Honey FAQ” published at the Australian Organic Ltd web site on 6th November 2018.

According to the FAQ,  the change was required as part of Australia’s new country of origin labelling laws that came into effect from July 1st this year.

Instead of using “Australian certified organic” as the text accompanying its bud logo, honey importers now need to use “ACO certified organic”.Aldi imported honey

Australian Organic Ltd says the change was recently implemented as part of a re-definition of its Australian Certified Organic standard.

Now the standard is defined as certifying only the organic nature of a product, and not its country of origin.

The re-definition should end the controversy that erupted over Capilano’s Allowrie organic honey product.

Allowrie “pure organic honey” sold in leading Australian supermarkets contained mostly imported Chinese honey.

That fact was, however, not disclosed on the label.

What was included on the label were the words Australian Certified Organic.

So some consumers reported believing they were buying an Australian rather than an imported product.

However when that was reported online, some of those publishing the reports (notably Simon Mulvaney) were threatened with legal action by Australian Organic Ltd.

Indeed Australian Organic Ltd wrote to Mulvany demanding a public admission of error and a published apology.

The company also told him it was acting in concert with both Capilano and Australian government agencies.

Now that the company has effectively conceded Mulvany’s point, it will be interesting to see if they apologize for their previous heavy-handed action.

It will also be interesting to see if Australian Organics Ltd updates or changes its organic honey FAQ at some stage in the future.

Some of the statements it contains are certainly curious.

For example the FAQ says that one of the factors behind increasing Australian honey imports is “ïnconsistent domestic pricing”.

Australian Organic Ltd also says that Chinese beekeepers will not lose their organic status if, in bad weather, and when their bees “are at risk of dying”, they feed organic honey to their bees.


Australia's finest and rarest honey. From the Tasmanian Honey Company 750gms of pure Tasmanian leatherwood honey. $19.95 plus freight

No action on fake, adulterated honey – ACCC

Australia’s peak consumer protection agency has decided not to take any action against Capilano despite its imported Chinese honey failing international quality tests.

Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) technology used in the tests isn’t yet reliable.

The ACCC has also decided not to prosecute the Byron Bay producers of a sugar syrup derived from apple juice and being sold as Vegan Honey.

In a media statement dated 17th November ACCC Deputy chair Mick Keogh, said that governments and research agencies around the world are looking at using NMR as a replacement or addition to the current C4 standard tests.

But he said NMR isn’t yet reliable and that this is the opinion of regulators in the UK, US and European Union as well.

McKeogh added that no-one has much confidence in the current C4 tests either.

“During the course of our investigation….it also became evident that there is low confidence in the current test method (the C4 test) used to detect adulterated honey.”

He said that the Department of Agriculture uses the C4 tests to check for adulteration in Capilano’s imported honey.

“Since 2015 the Department of Agriculture has tested imported honey using the C4 test, which did not detect adulteration in ‘Allowrie’ honey or some supermarket private-label products.”

He said the Department of Agriculture is “best placed to determine the most appropriate form of honey testing” and that the Department of Agriculture is reviewing testing standards.

Capilano  has welcomed the ACCC’s decision, saying that it had effectively endorsed the company’s position on NMR testing.

Separately, it was also revealed on Friday that the ACCC will not be prosecuting a Byron Bay based producer of so-call ‘Vegan Honey’.

Australia’s Honey Bee Industry Council (AHBIC)  had complained to the ACCC that the product isn’t honey at all.

AHBIC said the product is actually a sugar syrup derived from apples, and  therefore should not be labelled as honey.

AHBIC spokesman Trevor Weatherhead told the Weekly Times that the industry doesn’t know why the ACCC has squibbed the matter.

“We haven’t been given an explanation, they have just said they won’t act on it,” Mr Weatherhead said.

He said that AHBIC had also asked the NSW Food Council’s to investigate whether the so-called Vegan honey breaches the Food Act or Food Standards Code.

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Australia's finest and rarest honey. From the Tasmanian Honey Company 750gms of pure Tasmanian leatherwood honey. $19.95 plus freight

Capilano Honey reports sales, revenues and profits all falling ahead of now certain privatization

Capilano Honey’s takeover over by Wattle Hill and ROC Capital appears almost certain after the bidders increased their offer from $20.06 to $21 per share last Friday.

The higher price prompted Bega Cheese to announce it will accept the offer for the 15.6% stake Bega has built up in Capilano in recent months.

So with the board’s endorsement, and the only other major shareholder (i.e. Kerry Stokes) already having agreed to accept the offer, Capilano Honey is now almost certain to disappear from public ownership at next weeks (Nov 15th) shareholders meeting.

However ROC Capital and Wattle Hill will not find Australia’s biggest honey company travelling as well as when they first plotted the takeover.

Capilano Honey says profits, sales, revenues all falling
Capilano Honey says its profits, sales, and revenues are all down and falling

It seems that Capilano has suffered something of a dip in its commercial fortunes recently.

Capilano’s woes were revealed in a Supplementary Disclosure issued to the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) on November 2nd.

Based on what it said were its most recent trading figures, the company is forecasting a drop in profit for at least the first half of this 2018/2019 financial year.

Recent bad publicity flowing from samples of Capilano’s imported Chinese honey failing international quality tests was one factor cited.

And Coles decision to stop selling that honey (sold under the Allowrie brand) was also said to be part of the reverses.

But the company’s sales and revenues have been going backwards across quite a few areas of its business, and not just at Coles.

Capilano said it is also experiencing lower retail export sales to China, and lower bulk industrial sales both here and overseas.

Moreover a decision not to repeat last years “deep dive price reduction campaign” has, for reasons which aren’t explained, hit revenue this year. (Although, in truth, your correspondent has had no experience whatsoever with a Capilano “deep dive price reduction campaign” and has absolutely no idea what it looks like.)  

Capilano said it had gone ahead with spending more on marketing anyway, and has “implemented immediate measures to protect market share”.

Short-term cost-saving initiatives have been adopted, the company said, but even so, first half profit “is expected to be materially lower than last year’s result”.

Profits in the second half are expected to be better, but of course, by that time the company will be in private hands and won’t have to report or reveal how it is going.

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Australia's finest and rarest honey. From the Tasmanian Honey Company 750gms of pure Tasmanian leatherwood honey. $19.95 plus freight

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