Honey levy not so sweet

Kim Fewster.

WA apiarists are furious over a national plan to raise the honey levy aimed at protecting industry biosecurity, saying border protection is a Government responsibility.

The WA honey industry is worth around $15 million to the State's economy, producing about 2500 tonnes of honey from about 35,000 hives.

About 40 per cent of the State's honey is exported.

Addressing the WAFarmers Bee Section Conference last Friday, the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council proposed to members a lift in the current levy from 2.3c/kg to 4.6c/kg on July 1 next year.

Australian honey producer levies are set at 2.3c/kg for annual honey sales greater than 600kg.

The increase will be a 2.3c/kg increase in biosecurity levies and will raise an additional $460,000 per year for the AHBIC to contribute to the National Bee Biosecurity Program and National Bee Pest Surveillance Program.

The AHBIC is also proposing to raise the threshold of honey produced to which the levy applies from 600kg to 1500kg per year in an effort to make the levy more efficient to collect.

Muchea beekeeper Kim Fewster said the Federal Government was shirking its responsibility to protect the Australian honey industry from imported diseases.

"It should be one of the Federal Government's primary roles to protect the agricultural industry from any breach of our borders," he said.

"This is the case in every other country in the world.

"The Federal Government spends billions of dollars on our border security, so protecting the Australian honey industry from disease incursions should be no different from stopping illegal immigrants coming to this country."

Mr Fewster said the cost to the Australian taxpayer to protect the honey industry was minor compared with the impact of a disease.

He said when the Verona virus established itself in New Zealand, the costs for the industry and consumers were "horrific".

"Because the virus meant an end to natural pollination, the price for paid pollination in New Zealand quadrupled," he said.

"The AHBIC needs to convince Government that it should not be the industry's responsibility to foot the bill for biosecurity."

But AHBIC executive member Craig Klinger said the council had already tried to persuade the Federal Government to fund the biosecurity measures.

He said agricultural industries now had to take responsibility to protect them.

"Government are stepping away from managing endemic diseases," he said.

"So, if the industry wants to take up ownership, it needs to be quick smart."