[21 February/ Radio New Zealand]

New Zealand’s largest honey producer, Comvita, is blaming China exports and a bad honey crop for the $7.1 million loss it has reported for the half year. Wet, cold and windy conditions at the beginning of the season caused Comvita to decrease its honey production forecast from 974 tonnes to 380 tonnes. Comvita chief executive Scott Coulter said sales to China had been depressed, and believes there is still likely to be some market instability before any improvement occurs. Mr Coulter added that Comvita is experiencing a re-balancing from Australasia into China, and he believes Comvita’s new joint venture in China is likely to increase Chinese sales. He added that he expects a gradual transformation of informal channels to formal channels, however noted that it is a painful period until the joint venture is fully underway. Comvita expects growth in non-Chinese markets and new sales initiatives to cause the second half of the year’s sales to increase