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What's happening to the money, honey?

29 August 2008

What's happening to the money, honey?

The decision by government to bring forward additional funding to maintain varroa control lines until July 2009 is welcomed by beekeepers says John Hartnell, chairman of Federated Farmers Bees.

However, the implication that the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry will cease funding any varroa management past July 2009 is seen as the government deserting the beekeeping industry.

"On the one hand we welcome the extra short-term funding but on the other we are very worried about the long term funding from government to manage this damaging pest," Mr Hartnell said.

"The likely decision to not provide varroa funding beyond July 2009 highlights the current ho-hum attitude of the government to the agriculture industry. Bees are the lifeblood of our rural based economy and government appears happy to walk away from managing its own mistake of letting the varroa mite into the country which is not looked upon in a positive light," said Mr Hartnell.

"We're a small industry that relies on a relatively disease and pest free environment to survive. Continuing to keep the rest of the South Island varroa free is a priority, not only for the bee industry, but for continued crop pollination covering horticulture, the small seed industry and pastoral farming. Fewer bees means pollination of plants and orchards could be a problem in the future.

"The beekeeping industry has been very cooperative with government and the joint relationship established with MAF Biosecurity has been beneficial to all parties. Industry has put a lot of time and resources into varroa management but without future financial assistance from the government it will not be possible to maintain current control measures. It is essential that future funding is committed until suitable management tools are readily available.

"At a time when government is encouraging joint cost sharing for biosecurity incursions it would be sad to see it renege on provision of support to the bee industry. Without centralised management and funding of varroa management it is only a matter time before the rest of the South Island is overrun with varroa," Mr Hartnell said.

Varroa is one of the most serious pests of honey bees, and is found in most major beekeeping countries. Varroa will kill honey bee colonies unless it is controlled. The varroa mite feeds on the blood of adult honey bees and this enables other lethal viruses to break down the bees resistance. The parasite is specific to honey bees, and doesn't affect other insects. Varroa was detected in New Zealand in April 2000 and a decision by government at the time was made to not pursue eradication but support progressive management of the pest.


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