The Future of Our Bees in Western Australia.
As a beekeeper, owner of a honey business and a Western Australian today I am sadly concerned for the future of our bees, and our state's food industry as a whole.
We are facing a big threat from a small mite - Varroa Destructor. This mite is devastating to bees, and unfortunately has spread throughout the world, including now the east coast of Australia. Not yet in Western Australia, but unfortunately we are not safe unless we all act now to stop it. I have written to our premier, Roger Cook MLA, agriculture minister Jackie Jarvis MLC and my local MP with the following information, and I ask you to do the same.
After an incursion of varroa mite 15 months ago, and 30,000 bee hives euthanized at a cost of $132 million, this week New South Wales announced a move to management of the mite, giving up the possibility of eradication.
For all members of the public in Western Australia, and especially those in the bee industry, as well as those industries that rely on pollination from bees, this should come as extremely disturbing news.
Varroa has been in the USA since 1987. In 2022 they experienced a 48% annual loss of managed bee colonies and in some areas as high as 80% of bee colonies were lost. It is hard to quantify the huge economic impact of this in the USA.
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in a 2012 report estimated that the cost of the spread of varroa in Australia could be up to $1.31billion.
The impact of the mite could be devastating for our food industries reliant on crop pollination, and puts Western Australia's image for producing the purest and highest grade, chemical-free honeys in the world under threat.
However, we are in a unique position to do something about this situation, but it is vital to act decisively and quickly. I am asking you to consider closing the border to all imports of honey, and bee products from outside of Western Australia. Aside from potentially stopping the devastating varroa mite, this decision would bring multiple benefits with few downsides for Western Australia.
Currently WA is flooded with imported honey, which has driven the price of wholesale honey down to $3.50/kg - well below production cost for commercial beekeepers in WA. A pause of imports would help return the price to something sustainable for the industry. Western Australia produces more than enough honey to supply local markets and to continue exports. Any slight increase in wholesale prices would easily be absorbed by packers and retailers, with minimal impact to consumers, but with huge benefits to beekeepers.
These benefits are however minor in comparison to the cost a varroa incursion in WA would have, so I ask you to take action before the window of opportunity closes.
It is vital we act now to ensure the future prosperity of our bee industry and our unique and special environment in Western Australia.
Thankyou for your time and consideration. I am available and happy to discuss further at any time.