The New Zealand government has dug in on its audacious bid to trademark manuka honey in China, laughing off Australian protests and allocating millions of dollars to help secure the valuable market for Kiwi producers.
The government will give $NZ4 million ($A3.7 million) and loan a further $NZ1.7 million to the Manuka Honey Appellation Society in its bid to win exclusive Chinese rights to the term "manuka".
"This is nakedly us standing up to protect the brand equity of New Zealand manuka," Regional Economic Development, Forestry and Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones told AAP on Wednesday.
"I dare say that if the boot was on the other foot, the Aussies would not be surrendering to any other country."
Kiwi manuka honey producers are applying to the Beijing Intellectual Property Court for a critical "certification trade mark" that would force Australian producers to abandon their use of the term manuka.
Manuka honey is produced when bees collect nectar from leptospermum scoparium plant, which is native to southern Australian states and New Zealand.
Australia has adopted the Maori word for the plant.
Mr Jones suggested the etymology was significant, and labelled the Australian concerns were "hilarious".
"The response from Australia reminded me that the Tasmanian devil is at large," he said.
"I can understand why the Aussie tea-tree owners believe that they should be entitled to continue to profit but the word manuka is a Polynesian indigenous word and it pertains to our distinctive type of vegetation.
"I've been advised that their tea tree might be closer to Eucalyptus than our indigenous manuka."
Mr Jones said his advice had been sourced from "on the ground manuka people".
"The Aussies probably need to come up with their own moniker. There may be an Aboriginal word or distinctive word that distinguishes the geographical markers," he continued.
"There may be similarities, but the brand equity, I say to you belongs exclusively to Kiwis."
Manuka honey can sell for hundreds of dollars a kilogram due to its taste and antibacterial properties.
Australian Associated Press
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