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Cost Of Inaction Too High

29 May 2000 PR43/2000

COST OF INACTION TOO HIGH

Neil Barton, Chairman of the Grains Council of Federated Farmers, said today that while the cost of eliminating the Varroa mite may be high, the cost of not eradicating the pest will be even higher.

"A one-off investment in a successful eradication program to eliminate the Varroa mite from our environment, ensuring a continued high income stream from exports, would be a highly profitable investment," said Mr Barton.

"The value of pollination by honey bees to the arable industry is immense. For the good of the New Zealand economy, the Grains Council urges the Minister of Agriculture to use every endeavor to eliminate the Varroa mite from our country."

There are approximately 24,000 hectares of crops (both seed multiplication and herbage seed production) that are reliant on honey bees for pollination. Such crops include clover, oilseed and specialist vegetable seed crops. These crops contribute approximately $43m of export revenue annually to New Zealand's economy.

"Producers of these crops will undoubtedly face large production cost increases if the Varroa mite is not eradicated. These costs will arise from the extra chemical and labor requirements beekeepers will face in controlling the pest."

Without a committed eradication program, the Varroa mite will spread throughout New Zealand, causing beekeeping profitability to fall. Subsequently, there will be a drop in both the number of beekeepers, and in the number of commercially managed bees. The pest may also completely destroy the feral population of bees, which currently play a valuable but largely unrecognized role in New Zealand's crop production.

"The increased beekeeping costs, which will be passed on to growers, will clearly decrease the profitability of seed multiplication and herbage seed production, and will significantly reduce the substantial export income that cropping generates."

ENDS For further information: Neil Barton 021-441-125 or 03-688-8238 Kevin Geddes 03-307-8148


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