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CEO Update March 2024

26 March 2024

Since the February newsletter AHBIC has been focused on biosecurity issues.  Working hard towards establishing the transition to management program, contributing to the WA red dwarf honey bee response and […]

Since the February newsletter AHBIC has been focused on biosecurity issues.  Working hard towards establishing the transition to management program, contributing to the WA red dwarf honey bee response and acting as ILO in the Brisbane Asian honey bee response. 

Despite biosecurity consuming most of our time we have been progressing other critical industry issues.  

Honey Markets 

Imported Honey Subcommittee 

This committee has met to discuss what can be done about this issue and provided a list of tasks for AHBIC to complete.  We have gathered nearly 40 imported honey samples from shelves across Australia and we are preparing them to be tested.  AHBIC has met with specialty international trade lawyers to discuss imported product and what can be done from a countervailing perspective. In addition to this internal activity, we have also met with the Australian Federal Agricultural Department to lobby for more comprehensive testing and provided insight into the imported honey testing project. 

There is still work to be done on this issue and we are progressing as fast as possible with the resources we have. 

Opening Export Opportunities 

We have now officially gained access to export markets in Vietnam for Australian honey.  Whilst some honey was being exported to Vietnam it was through the unofficial ‘grey’ channels that offer little protection to Aussie exporters.  Formalising this export pathway gives both exporters and importers greater confidence and hopefully we will see increased volumes of Aussie honey going to Vietnam.  

This took a lot of work from AHBIC working with AusTrade and the Vietnam authorities to agree to specific import conditions.  We are still working on Indonesia and Morocco to formalise their entry conditions.  Australia is now exporting the lowest amounts of honey since the 1960’s, contributing to some of the current over supply within our own country. 

National Honey Standards Committee 

AHBIC is chairing the International Standards Organisation working group for honey bee products.  This group has been meeting regularly to assess and provide comment on the international proposed standards and progress the Australian standards.  A standard for Royal Jelly has been circulated for public comment and will be soon presented to the AHBIC member bodies for endorsement.  We expect this to be the first in a series of standards for industry to consider. 


NSW Varroa Response 

Final agreement was reached in early February to the national transition to management plan.  This long-awaited agreement enables training to be rolled out and extension officers to be recruited.  We expect to start seeing training opportunities across NSW with the other jurisdictions to follow soon. 

The roll out of the training will be over the next 12 months so I encourage all beekeepers to attend a training workshop whilst they are free.  There will also be a continual flow of additional resources for beekeepers throughout the transition to management plan. 

WA Red Dwarf Honey Bee Detection 

There are now 26 colonies detected on the Burrup peninsula in the north of WA, all within a 2km radius.  There are 11 absconded nests found, indicating potential swarming activity.  All colonies have had Euvarroa present, but no Euvarroa has been found on European honey bees to date. All colonies destroyed have also tested negative for exotic viruses. 

Varro Jacobsoni in Brisbane 

This new detection in Brisbane was the result of a single mite being found in a European sentinel hive at the port. The response has now found a single Asian Honey Bee colony in close proximity to the original sentinel hives.  Testing has confirmed v. jacobsoni present in the Asian colony and further surveillance of European colonies including the remaining sentinel hives has failed to find any further v. jacobsoni in those hives.  This hopefully indicates that the original single mite detection was a result of drift/transfer and not host shifting as originally feared. 

Further surveillance around the port and within a 10km radius will be conducted to ensure the area is free of both Asian Honey Bees and v. jacobsoni. 

Biosecurity Friends of Parliament 

Our Chair will be travelling to Canberra to attend the Parliamentary friends of Biosecurity at Parliament house hosted by television celebrity Costa Georgiadis.  This will be a great opportunity for AHBIC to network with members of parliament and ministers to further lobby for better outcomes for our industry. 

The Month Ahead 

Another senate inquiry has been announced for the Biosecurity Protection Levy and AHBIC will providing a submission opposing the new tax.  AHBIC will leverage the strength of numbers in the growing group of collective voices from primary industries in opposition to the new tax. 

We are hopeful to make good progress on a few of the projects in the transition to management plan that AHBIC is responsible for including the coordination of the extension officers nationally, updating the CoP and establishing a Coloss survey for industry. 

Towards the end of the month AHBIC will participate in a some AgriFutures events including the R&D forum in Canberra and the levied industry forum in Sydney.  These are great opportunities for AHBIC to further our industry messaging but also to network with like-minded industries at the levied industry forum and the many researchers working in the varroa space. 


Danny LeFeuvre