OPINION: Remember when Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor, about a year ago, launched his new baby the Primary Sector Council (PSC) to a whole lot of fanfare and cost to the taxpayer?
Commercial beekeepers voted earlier this month not to support the introduction of a honey levy by ApiNZ, with just 23.56% of beekeepers backing the proposal.
ApiNZ says it welcomes O’Connor’s support for unity to address existing challenges around bee welfare and biosecurity, food safety and export regulations.
The comments from ApiNZ follow a meeting between the industry body for apiculture and O’Connor late last week on the commodity levy results.
“As we advised the Minister a ‘no vote’ for the commodity levy means we do not have the investment fund needed, nor the collective focus that is characteristic of other primary industries in identifying, deciding and actioning priorities,” says Bruce Wills, chair of ApiNZ.
Wills say the lack of collective focus makes it challenging to deal with the known issues facing the beekeeping industry and to promote opportunities for beekeepers.
“One of the opportunities we raised with the Minister is how we grow the value of our key native and pastoral monofloral honeys. This has become a priority for beekeepers given the erosion in prices for all honey types other than mānuka.
Wills says the Minister was receptive to looking at how industry and government could work together on identifying the value of other native and pastoral monofloral honeys, particularly in relation to supporting regional and Māori economic development.
The building blocks for protecting the term mānuka and potentially other native monofloral honeys such as rewarewa and kamahi through Certification Trademarks and Geographic Indicators are underway and supported by ApiNZ.
ApiNZ’s board meets next month to discuss its next steps and has signalled a willingness to work with the wider industry to find common ground.
“While it is on all our shoulders to protect and grow the value of industry, the Minister’s decision to take these further steps to help industry and call for unity is a very strong signal to all stakeholders, both in optimism for the future but for urgency to act now,” says Wills.