Happy New Year for what I hope, will be a better year for our industry.
2024 will be another big year for AHBIC, doing the best we can for industry with the resources we have got. This year will be packed with activities including transition to management, importing honey testing, levies and strong lobbying to the government to try and get a better deal for our beekeepers.
Since our December newsletter, Bianca and I have each had short break over Christmas/New Year, in order to recharge, ready for what will be another intense year. As a result, our readership would have noticed a short pause in some of our regular AHBIC communication, we are pleased to be back, with the new year well upon us for our January newsletter drop.
On December 19th, 2023, the CCEPP met to discuss the response plan v4 (T2M) and made some recommended amendments for out of session approval with the aim of a NMG meeting mid-January for final approval. We are now late January and waiting for the NMG meeting which will likely be scheduled second week of February.
The core activities in the T2M plan remain relatively unchanged from what has been presented to AHBIC’s member bodies previously. There is likely to be a significant debate at the NMG meeting regarding timeframes of T2M. AHBIC is lobbying strongly for exceptional circumstances, to be applied to some activities for extention to 24 months, this is beyond what is written into The Deed, which states T2M activity wont exceed 12 months.
CRC for Pollination Security
Unfortunately for our industry the CRC for pollination security bid was not successful this round. Hopefully the core bid group can maintain momentum and energy to bid again in the upcoming rounds. This leaves our industry reliant on the existing R&D funding mechanisms which is insufficient now Varroa has arrived.
Current data review on national hive numbers has shown our industry has increased by 200,000 hives over the last 3 years. About half operated by recreational beekeepers and half by commercial beekeepers. The number of commercial beekeepers has remained relatively unchanged at around 1,800 but the recreational sector has increased from around 28,000 in 2019 to approximately 47,000 registered recreational beekeepers in 2023.
Interestingly our industry continues to import significant amounts of honey. The volume has been consistent at around 8,000t per annum for the last decade with exports declining to only 3,000t in 2023. The volume of honey exported is now at the lowest levels since the 1960’s perhaps demonstrating our lack of competitiveness on the global stage with pricing (current global honey commodity price at $3.80 AUD). 2023 also recorded a national levied honey production of 17,000t, significantly down on the long-term average of 20,000t.
Undoubtably imported honey is influencing farm gate prices but is it the only influence? Our industry has increased hive numbers by 200,000 hives over the last 3 years, yet we are recording low notional levied honey production and the lowest export volumes on record. Where is all the honey from the additional hives going? Clearly not through the established industry supply chain. Perhaps direct to customers bypassing the levy system? If so, what influence is all the additional honey in the system having on honey pricing? Either way, beekeepers and packers have sheds full of honey, supressing farm gate prices to unsustainable levels.
Red Dwarf Honey Bee incursion in WA
A total of 24 active colonies have now been identified and destroyed with an additional 9 abandoned nests found. Euvarroa has been confirmed in 23 of the 24 colonies. Surveillance on European honey bee colonies as not detected any Euvarroa at this stage.
DIPIRD continues to send surveillance crews to Burrup Peninsula with the aim of determining the spread of the pest.
The Month Ahead
We are all eagerly awaiting the final NMG approval of the T2M plan, as once approved activities will start to ramp up. We are acutely aware of the need for training and support, and we are doing all we can to work with the process for an outcome as quickly as possible.
AHBIC has been maintaining involvement as ILO with the NSW varroa response, ILO in the AgVic team through regular response team meetings and a point of contact for the South Australian PIRSA team assisting their planning and preparations moving forward.