What a year! 2022 has been a whirl wind year for AHBIC, starting with the resignation of our CEO in December 2021, appointment of an acting CEO at the start of 2022 and straight into the planning and organising of the 2022 Bee Congress. Following shortly after the congress the detection of Varroa at Newcastle and the launch of the largest plant pest response the country has ever seen. All this happening whilst trying to continue to achieve good outcomes for the industry on many fronts.
Varroa Coordinator position
We very excited to announce that Bianca Giggins has accepted the position after a rigorous selection and interview process. The list of candidates for the role was strong and the selection panel had a difficult time separating the top candidates. Thankyou to all the exceptionally talented candidates for applying.
Bianca has previously worked as the training coordinator for Tocal Ag College coordinating and delivering the Cert 3 in beekeeping and more recently has been a team leader in the Varroa response. We are very lucky to have Bianca starting in the new year. In our next newsletter we will ask Bianca to provide a more detailed introduction.
We acknowledge and are very thankful to the federal government for providing the support to employ the Varroa Coordinator.
I have not spent as much time physically in the Control Centre as previous months but I have zoomed in for all the morning briefings and afternoon debriefs daily in an ILO capacity. I have attended many CCEPP and NMG meetings as well as re-categorisation meetings. It has been all-consuming with the majority of my time spent on the Varroa response.
The response is now recognised as the largest plant pest response in Australia’s biosecurity history with over 2,000 government personnel 300 beekeeper volunteers having rotated through the response. Overall the response is in a good position with euthanasia of hives largely completed and teams tasked back onto surveillance. As these teams are working back through the purple zones with mats and strips they have found a few new detections. This is not completely unexpected and highlights the importance of the purple/surveillance zone. Pleasingly all the new detections are linked to existing IP’s.
Baiting is well underway across all zones and the second round of baiting has commenced in Jerrys Plain. There has been mixed results as some area have got honey flows occurring but this starting to change with greater bee visitations to baiting stations currently.
AHBIC has received results from another batch of Indian honey tested for adulteration. This batch, from Queensland shelves, has come back as not adulterated. However AHBIC is strongly pursuing the commonwealth to improve the border testing protocols and frequency to prevent adulterated honey entering Australia. In addition AHBIC has lobbied the ACCC to highlight the mis-labelling of some imported product as ‘honey’ when testing demonstrates it is not honey.
To counteract the cheap imported honey AHBIC has also been actively working to increase Australian honey export opportunities through working with Austrade and DAFF in to gain better access to countries like Vietnam and Indonesia. We have also been communicating with the Special Envoy to Southeast Asia to ensure honey is at the forefront of mind when negotiating new trade deals. Increasing exports will reduce the stockpiles of Australian honey, in turn hopefully increasing farm gate pricing.
AHBIC is working with VETASSESS to apply to have the requirements for skilled migrant beekeepers reduced and realigned to industry expectations. Currently any migrant worker wanting to work as a beekeeper in Australia under the skilled worker visa must hold a higher degree (bachelor or higher) certificate in beekeeping. Generally beekeepers need to apply to the government for an exemption which takes significant time and resources. We are applying to lower the requirements to a Cert 3 in beekeeping more in-line with industry expectations of a ‘skilled’ beekeeper.
International Standards Organisation
We have applied to participate in the ISO working group for honey and honey bee products. This working group is an established group under the international standards organisation and Australia is the only major honey producing country not at the table. This working group is chaired by China and it is important for Australia to have representation. More information can be found at the ISO website. If our application is successful then we will need setup a technical group to inform the representative.
Whilst Varroa has consumed nearly all of our time we have managed to progress the review sub-committee. The draft terms of reference has now been approved and a skills matrix developed. We will send out a request for committee members early in the new year to start the process. This group will assist in informing the upcoming strategic plan due to be renewed in 2023.
We hope everyone is able to enjoy a break over Christmas no matter how small, and I hope everyone finds more honey in the new year than you have through spring!! The AHBIC office will be closed between Christmas and the 9th January.