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  • Bee shortage agitates almond industry 08/09/2022

    Aug 9th, 2022

    Almond growers are facing multi-million dollar losses because of a shortage of bee hives due to varroa mite restrictions, according to the industry's peak body. Almond Board of Australia chief executive Tim Jackson says growers face significant losses because of a ban on NSW hives being moved into Victoria coinciding with the start of the pollination season. ADVERTISEMENT Ad The ban could lead to a fall in almond production of 30,000 tonnes, costing the industry enormous sums, Mr Jackson says. "It's potentially a multi-million dollar loss," he told AAP. Victoria grows 60 per cent of the country's almonds, while the industry had hoped to produce 165,000 tonnes across Australia this year, which would have been its first billion dollar crop. "There's a lot of anxiety around what reduced crop potential this is going to create," Mr Jackson said. After touring regional Victoria last week, he says the ban on NSW bees entering the state has left Victorian growers short of 50,000 hives, one-third of the total needed. Talks broke down between the industry and Victorian officials late last week. ADVERTISEMENT Ad "There is a refusal from Victoria to allow NSW bees in," Mr Jackson said. "We have been unable to broker any sort of compromise or solution that would allow enough bees situated in NSW back into Victoria for this year's pollination." The varroa mite was discovered near Newcastle, north of Sydney on June 22, sparking a biosecurity lockdown on the movement of hives across several states. It has since spread to 79 premises throughout NSW with several biosecurity zones set up around Newcastle, the Central Coast, north coast and in the state's north and northwest. Mr Jackson says growers are frustrated by a lack of a co-ordinated approach between the states. Queensland, South Australia and Victoria all have restrictions in place on the movement of bees from NSW. "Here we are with COVID all over again, where states are putting themselves ahead of the national interest," he said. "Victoria is magnified simply because of the volume of bees that are needed from NSW." No permits are currently being granted to NSW beekeepers to move their bees into Victoria, but authorities say they're continuing to monitor events and will reconsider permits as the risk eases. A spokesperson for Agriculture Victoria says authorities are doing all they can to keep the mite out. "While the NSW government is still delimiting the extent of the spread of varroa in NSW, we need to take a precautionary approach to ensure we protect Victoria's agricultural sector, beekeepers, regional communities and businesses." ADVERTISEMENT Mr Jackson is calling for state borders to be open to the relocation of hives under the same restrictions as within NSW, which allows movement in low-risk areas with a permit and under strict supervision.