Bee crisis could cost billions in lost agricultural production across Australia, Senate inquiry hears –‘No bees, no food’Posted by Jim at Wednesday, April 16, 2014
By TORY SHEPHERD
16 April 2014
(The Advertiser) – Feral bees have been all but wiped out in South Australia, putting the state’s agricultural industry at risk.
The state now depends on about 60 beekeepers for domestic bees to pollinate crops after the feral population was hit hard by the Bangor and Ngarkat bushfires, among others.
SA apiarist Leigh Duffield, who gave evidence to a Senate inquiry into the future of beekeeping, said bees in those areas were basically burnt out, and their feeding grounds destroyed.
“No bees, no food,” he said.
“About two-thirds of the food produced in Australia is dependent on pollination. For apples, pears, lucerne, almonds, it’s about 90 per cent.
“The whole community, the health of the whole community, is now very dependent on the wellbeing of about 60 commercial apiarists in Australia. We only generate $12 million from honey, but our add-on benefit is about half a billion.”
“As a consequence it is not possible to assess the level of threat posed to the beekeeping industry in Australia, but it would seem reasonable to project that should Varroa establish in Australia and reliance on managed pollination substantially increases, then CCD will become an increasingly important issue.”
Varroa is likely to infest Australia through hives carried on international ships.
SA Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said bees were necessary for Australia’s food production.
Senator Xenophon wants shipping companies to get rid of beehives before they arrive in Australia and for Australia to follow Europe’s lead in banning some insecticides and herbicides on crops.
“The cost of failure is huge,” he said.
“The potential damage to Australian agriculture could run into the billions if there’s a biosecurity breach of a Varroa infestation.”