Eight weeks out from the varroa parasite outbreak, NSW has eased restrictions on the movement of thousands of pollinating beehives, but the decision comes too late for many almond growers.
- The NSW Government has scrapped yellow zones in its varroa mite response
- Hundreds of beekeepers can now apply to move their hives
- The bees are needed to pollinate orchards ahead of harvest
The NSW Agriculture Minister Dugald Saunders said he was confident varroa mite is being controlled and has scrapped the yellow notification zones set up around infected properties.
The changes allow bees and beehives on more than 3,700 properties flexibility to move again, but the CEO of the Almond Board of Australia, Tim Jackson, said production had already taken a hit.
“It is a bit late, and production will be down a bit as a result,” Mr Jackson said.
Mr Jackson said the news was still welcome and would give Riverina almond growers access to enough bees, but other states were still not allowing cross-border movements.
“Considering Victoria grows about 60 per cent of Australia’s almonds, pollination rates could be as low as 50 per cent.
“And that is estimated to reduce the value of the crop by $200 million this year.”
Yellow zone ‘clear of varroa’
Today marks eight weeks since the deadly bee parasite was first detected at sentinel hives at the Port of Newcastle, triggering a statewide movement ban.
There are now 97 infected properties across the state.
Biosecurity zones were imposed within 10-kilometre, 25-kilometre and 50-kilometre radiuses of the detections, marking eradication zones, surveillance zones, and notification zones, respectively.
But the NSW Agriculture Minister Dugald Saunders said there was “no longer a need” for the outer, yellow notification zone.
“As bizarre as it sounds, it’s actually a good thing to be able to do to lose one of those zones,” he said.
“We’ve done everything we can. The teams have been on the ground doing a massive amount of work to get here, and I think that’s a great result. We’ll keep doing what we’re doing.”
Millions of bees have been eradicated as part of the state’s control response to varroa mite in the red zones.
In the now-scrapped yellow zones, almost 2,500 hives were sampled, and no mites were found.
Mr Saunders said he was “confident” that the changes would have an immediate effect.
“It means that those beekeepers — around 277 commercial beekeepers and almost 3,500 recreational beekeepers — will now be able to apply for a permit to move,” he said.
“It’s all based on the fact that we’ve done a lot of testing over the past few months to make sure that we’re at the stage now to feel comfortable doing what we’re doing.
“The yellow zone is now like the rest of NSW; it is clear of varroa mite.
Berries, avocados and macadamias next
NSW Apiarists’ Association president Steve Fuller said while almonds largely missed out, blueberry, apple, avocado and macadamia growers would be grateful.
“It’s starting to give a little bit of normality back to some of the industry that has been trapped in a non-movement zone for a couple of months now,” he said.
“It’s not so much more freedom, but it allows us to work our hives and move our hives a little bit more easier.”
Mr Fuller will start to prepare his hives that were in the yellow zone, surrounding the infested premise at Nana Glen, for macadamia pollination.
“Around the Grafton area, we had 1,500 hives locked down … the [removal of the] yellow zone allows me to get my hives ready for the macadamia season, which is coming up in about six weeks’ time,” he said.
“We do have some blueberries that aren’t in the purple or red zones at the moment. We also have stone fruit and apples coming up in September, avocadoes coming in September as well.”
Posted , updated
Source : ABC News (AU)