Exports to the Middle East and beyond are the focus of the latest co-operative formed under the Farming Together program.
Australian Beekeepers Co-operative is sourcing all types of premium table honey, including jellybush manuka honey, from private and public land in an area stretching from south-east Queensland to NSW’s northern rivers.
Highly prized manuka honey can retail at up to $400/kg overseas. The main buyer is a Brisbane-based firm, Natures Gold, which produces a range of premium health foods and manuka-based skin care products favoured by overseas buyers.
The co-op is working with the client and through a marketing arm, ABC Honey Pty Ltd, to ensure the Australian product matches international quality standards.
Owners of Natures Gold, John and Jill Richards, have newly returned from a trade show in Dubai with forward orders for the honey. Discussions are also underway with potential buyers in Shanghai, Singapore and New York.
The co-op, initiated by 12 apiarists and a small group of investors was formally approved by the regulator in March. It held its formation meeting on March 21.
Administration manager Glenda Holowaty said: “Co-operatives are the building blocks of all great economic activity but particularly in primary production. They formalise loose partnerships and make them work for the benefit of all the members. We are getting up to two calls a week from people wanting to join our co-op.”
Glenda and her husband David (a co-op director) are beekeepers. Initial founder and foundation chairman is Latvian-born beekeeper Ugis Lauberts. Now living in Australia, he brings a lifetime of bee-keeping experience to the group.
The co-op structure allows the beekeepers to share in the profits from the whole chain right up to the end user. Forming a co-op and undertaking a joint venture with co-investors in the project has helped apiarists invest in technology.
The co-op, through ABC Honey Pty Ltd and Natures Gold, recently co-invested in a stand-alone packing house Honeypack Pty Ltd, which has just installed a sophisticated honey aeration plant to secure a major supply contract, and is also offering packing services to all clients of the co-operative under their own labels. Future plans for the co-op include more throughput and introducing mobile extraction units, which are used extensively overseas, but are an Australian-first.
Mrs Holowaty said: “The real beauty of the Farming Together program is not necessarily the money it saves farmers – but rather the incredible level of expertise the program brings.” Farming Together provided the co-op with the services of consultant Leanne Mathewson who helped secure the registration.
“In my opinion the Farming Together program is one of the best initiatives that has come out of the current government – I simply can’t speak highly enough of what it has allowed us to achieve,” she said.
Farming Together program director Lorraine Gordon said: “The ABC Honey Co-op captures the spirit of this program – primary producers recognise the value of working collaboratively to achieve more than they would otherwise have thought possible.”
PICTURED: (TOP – L to R): Sales manager Sarah Smith and administration manager Glenda Holowaty. (MIDDLE): The ABC Honey team and (BOTTOM) Toms Lauberts, 4.