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Honey Strategy A Missed Opportunity

The national honey strategy proposed by Apiculture NZ is badly off the mark, according to Jane Lorimer, President of NZ Beekeeping Inc.

The strategy is being talked up at an industry ‘summit’ in Hamilton this week.

Meanwhile, NZ Beekeeping, which represents small- to -medium commercial beekeeping business across the country, has gone out and actually talked to beekeepers at a series of meetings nationwide.

“The result of our consultation is clear”, she said, “beekeepers are facing real problems. Returns are low, costs are rising, and disease burdens are growing."

"They need support dealing with bee diseases and the risk of new incursions."

"They need their essential work in pollinating crops like kiwifruit and clover pastures to be better understood and properly valued."

"And they need to get costs down. Compliance costs imposed by MPI and its agencies have in many cases doubled in recent years - for no improvement in regulatory outcomes. This must change", she added.

Apiculture NZ’s proposals miss the mark completely.

Jane explained that their proposals focus on mānuka honey, and on a system of new, mandatory levies. The mānuka honey market is deeply dysfunctional, with high retail prices in overseas markets not coming back to producers. Large honey packing companies cream off the profits, and sell blended honey as ‘multifloral mānuka’, a self-evident contradiction in terms that MPI actually helps. Until this market distortion is fixed, Mānuka honey as it is marketed will continue to shortchange producers and mislead consumers.

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The Apiculture NZ proposal also seems to focus on creating a statutory body, really to tackle the fact that a voluntary body, as they have now, can’t attract enough support to be viable.

“This is no solution”, she said, “beekeepers would voluntarily back an effective advocacy body at national level. But Apiculture NZ has let beekeepers down, and is in the hands of the larger honey packing companies, often owned offshore”.

Meanwhile, bee health issues remain unaddressed. Biosecurity risks are high, with poor and porous border controls in New Zealand.

“And, finally, not a word about pollination.” Jane explained “honey bees are the essential pollinators for kiwifruit, apples and pears and other crops, and of course for clover in pasture that contributes so much to avoiding petrochemical fertiliser use. Yet, not a word. Beekeepers tell us they want pollination better understood, better valued, and included in future climate change policies and greenhouse gas accounting. It’s just unbelievable that Apiculture NZ has missed all of this”.

NZ Beekeeping argues that the industry needs a new direction, and that it needs to work together. But not like this. “We urge Apiculture NZ to abandon these self-serving proposals and start again, to work quickly with beekeepers throughout New Zealand on the issues we know they really face. Otherwise, this will all be a serious distraction as well as a missed opportunity” she ended.

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