September 2000

Honey  - Australia's Liquid Gold


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The Honey News Archives

Voluntary Contributors to AHBIC

AHBIC wishes to thank all those who contribute to the support of the organisation. It would be prudent,  when purchasing queen bees or selling honey, to consider supporting those who support the industry and conduct price comparisons on that basis. A list of all current contributors appears below.

AB’s Honey
Australian Rain Forest Honey
Australian Honey Bee Improvement Programme
Australian Sungold Queen Bees
Beeline Queens
Capilano Honey Limited
CE Mills
Chiltern Honey
Coopers Fine Foods
Dewar Apiaries
Hunter Valley Apiaries
Koonoomoo Apiaries
R & E McDonald
R. Stephens
RC & DJ Phillips Pty Ltd
Swan Settlers
T & M Weatherhead
Walkabout Apiaries
Weerona Apiaries
Wescobee Limited
Windsor Farm Foods Pty Limited
Business ‘Confident’

The rebound in business confidence in the first months of the GST showed how well business was coping with the tax system in the opinion of the Treasurer Peter Costello.

The latest Westpac/Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) survey of manufacturers found business confidence recovered sharply as fears about the GST subsided in September.

New evidence from the business community showed they are coping with the tax changes and the tax system is improved.  All this would be threatened under Labor’s plan to roll back the GST according to Mr Costello.  One of the things that would threaten business confidence in the tax system would be any rollback on the GST. 

Switching From Wheat to Barley

Changing planting patterns and dry conditions in some areas are expected to force down the size of Australia’s wheat crop.

Only South Australian growers are expected to bring in a bigger crop this year, with sharp declines in Western Australia, Victoria and Queensland.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) stated that the national wheat crop would be down eight per cent to 22.21 million tonnes.

Western Australia, which is the nation’s biggest wheat producer, has suffered from a late start to the season with wheat levels expected to be down 21 per cent. ABARE said because of the late start, many farmers had switched over to barley.

Strategy to Cut Salinity
 A salinity strategy unveiled for the Murray-Darling basin sets targets for states and river valleys.

 Federal Agriculture Minister Warren Truss released the draft plan on 5th September 2000, saying it was vital in saving one of the most important agricultural areas.

 The plan allows for the trading of salinity credits between business and communities and support for various private enterprise projects using saline water for inland aquaculture.

 But the targets will not be backed by penalties, except what Mr Truss said was the voice of the ballot box.

He said the strategy was vital for the survival of a basin that provided 40 per cent of Australia’s agricultural value. 

 A salinity audit of the Murray-Darling basin was completed last year.

South Australian Water Resources Minister Mark Brindal has said that if anti-salinity action was not taken, water drawn from the Murray River every second day would breach World Health Organisation safe drinking water standards.

A target of 800 EC units – a measure of salinity – at Morgan on the Murray River in South 

Australia has been set for governments and catchments to achieve by 2015.

Targets for the basin, catchments, sub-catchments and even industrial properties are envisaged, covering water quality, water sharing, river ecosystem health and biodiversity.

The programme sets targets for biodiversity and growing native species.

Bees Into the USA

As previously advised, The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the USDA has been requested by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) to allow the importation into the US of adult honey bees, specifically queens and package bees, and honey bee germ plasm (drone semen) from Australia.  The request was made in accordance with the GAAT and in part by NAFTA.

To determine whether the risk associated with such importation is low enough for APHIS to initiate rule making to implement this change to US regulations, APHIS prepared a Draft Risk Assessment: Importation of Adult Queens, Package Bees and Germ Plasm of Honey Bees from Australia, in consultation with the government of Australia.  The draft risk assessment identified quarantine pests associated with the importation of honey bees and honey bee germ plasm from Australia and qualitatively assessed the likelihood of the introduction of these quarantine pests into the US, as well as the consequences of introduction.  This draft pest risk assessment was available to the public for review and comment.  In particular, APHIS requested feedback on the risk factors, methodology, and documentation used in the draft pest risk assessment.

At the close of the period for public comment, 6 submissions were received.  Phillip Corrigan from the Australian Embassy in Washington has advised that although the comments were negative, they are not substantive enough to hold up the process.  The people who commented are being communicated with by the USDA and the necessary actions for the rule making process have been initiated.  The Americans have also confirmed to Phillip Corrigan that the New Zealand varroa issue will not affect the Australian case.

Storm Damage

Our sympathies go to the Whitehead family whose honey packing plant at Milawa, Victoria sustained some substantial damage in a recent freak wind storm in the area.  Hard work and long hours, not to mention expense, go into building a substantial business and we trust that the family will be able ‘weather this particular storm’.

Driving Hours for Apiarists

At our recent Annual Conference, delegates requested that AHBIC make submission to have the National Road Driving Regulations amended to allow apiarists to have exemption from recording hours under a 200km radius.

We have recently received correspondence from the Commonwealth Department of Transport and Regional Services concerning the amendment of driving hours for apiarists in reply to our earlier correspondence.

The Commonwealth does not have jurisdiction over the day to day operations of heavy vehicles.  Instead, the commonwealth works cooperatively with the States and Territories through the National Road Transport Commission (NRTC) to improve the efficiency and safety of the road transport industry through the development of nationally agreed road transport policies and laws, such as the National Driving Hours Regulations.  These policies or laws are then enacted or implemented as appropriate by each State and Territory.

Officers from the Department have been in contact with the NRTC to discuss the issue raised and have been informed that an exemption from recording driving hours for journeys with a 200km radius has been granted for the transport of live bees in South Australia.  Members should contact Mr Don Hogden of Transport SA on 08 8348 9667 to ascertain the specific details of the exemption.

Outside of South Australia, members should contact their relevant State or Territory Transport Minister to seek an exemption, as there is no mechanism for exemptions to be dealt with on a national basis.

A longer term review of the regulatory approach to heavy vehicle driver fatigue, which will include issues such as driving hour, is to be undertaken by the NRTC as part of the Third Heavy Vehicle Reform Package agreed to by Transport Ministers in May 2000.  The Department has forwarded our letter to the NRTC so that our concerns can be considered as part of the review.

Food Labels Consumer Friendly

Nutritional labelling would be required on all processed food, not just products that manufacturers wanted to promote, the Australia New Zealand Food Authority has announced.  ANZFA has rewritten the food standards code and, if approved, it will come into effect in 2002.

Managing Director Ian Lindenmayer said the new code was aimed at meeting the needs of consumers rather than manufacturers including protecting consumers from allergic reactions.

It is important that the food standards code reflects the best and most recent knowledge about additives and contaminants, things that should be kept under limitations in food.

ANZFA is currently finalising the wording of the standard itself although they are not responsible for the day-to-day enforcement of food standards.  ANZFA is, however, responsible for guidance and coordination in this area and is currently developing a protocol on the new standard.  The protocol will be used to guide enforcement officers and industry on action necessary in order to comply.  It is expected to take something of the order of two months to complete the protocol.

At this time, in respect of GMOs, ANZFA believes that the introduction of DNA testing for honey does not seem to be justified as it appears unlikely in most cases that honey would require labelling, and it seems reasonable for the honey producers to comply with the 1% unintended contamination level using a documented audit trail and exercising due diligence.

Industry Video

AHBIC now has available the industry video.  Two versions are available – one which runs for  45 minutes and another which is a teaching video consisting of 13 segments.  These videos are available at a cost of $27.50 (Incl GST) each from the AHBIC office.

Windsor Farms Honey Business Purchased by Capilano

Windsor Farms had advised their suppliers that Capilano Honey is in the process of completing the purchase of their honey business.  The process will be completed following due diligence and the writing of final contracts.

Animal Health Australia 

Animal Health Australia (AHA) has advised AHBIC of progress on the following projects.

Strategic Directions for Animal Health

Substantial progress has been made in communicating objectives and strategies for Australia’s animal health system through release of the Animal Health 2010 report and Company Strategic Plan – Advancing Animal Health 2000/01 – 2002/03.  As part of the process of consultation on strategic directions, a workshop was held with Members on 16 March 2000 to introduce findings of the Animal Health 2010 report and canvass early reaction to the propositions, outcomes and strategies outlined.

An important outcome of the workshop was confirmation of the company’s role in facilitating new approaches to the coordination and delivery of animal health services, including disease detection systems.  Successive commissioned reports had highlighted weaknesses with present arrangements and recommended various reforms to improve efficiency, flexibility, responsiveness and collaboration.

The re-release of Advancing Animal Health 2000/01 – 2002/03 honours a commitment to Members in 1999 that the strategic plan would be a living document, reviewed and revised annually.  Notable inclusions to this year’s plan are:-

  •  development and implementation of the Company’s communications programme including a networking strategy to forge stronger strategic relationships with stakeholders and enhanced programme communication plans,
  •  collation and promotion of information on livestock disease and animal welfare standards,
  •  enhanced internal risk management processes.

AHA’s members have been advised of further progress in restructuring the core activities of the Company that are funded from Members’ Subscriptions into three (3) clearly defined programme areas.

In each case a new consultative process is being implemented that will provide an opportunity for all Members to contribute to programme direction, activities and budgets.  “Programme Advisory Committees” will be tasked to provide the Board with advice on the strategic direction, activities and budgets for each programme via a comprehensive three-year rolling Business Plan.

These new processes provide potentially significant advantages to Members including:-

  •  focusing effort by company management and Members into areas the Board believes are critical to effective performance.
  •  ensuring strategic initiatives gain the attention of senior government managers capable of recognising the wider community and organisational impacts animal health issues may have.
  •  ensuring all Members have the opportunity to contribute to strategic directions that may have significant budgetary impacts.
  •  offering potential economies as coordination mechanisms, documentation and reporting can be scaled back as sub-sets of the one programme.
  •  capacity to provide a report to the Annual General Meeting in November on proposed activities and expenditure funded from Members’ Subscriptions that all Members have had an opportunity to contribute to.

Animal Health Services

This programme will clearly identify the company’s commitment to improving animal health services and focus energy into an identified project that encompasses the recommendations and outcomes from a series of Task Group Reports presented to Members over the last 3 years.

The first meeting of the Programme Advisory Committee was held on 19-20 September 2000 and attended by Greg Roberts representing the industry.  This meeting was chaired by Professor Mal Nairn to ensure that the Committee retains a strategic focus and its efforts are reflected in progressive improvements and efficiencies in national animal health servicing.

Emergency Animal Disease Preparedness

Management of this existing programme is being reorganised to provide a high level Programme Advisory Committee representing all Members.  The Board has noted advice from some Members that they do not consider they have adequate input into the direction of this programme.

Once again the Company is seeking from Members significant management and strategic input into the programme to assist the Board determine the future direction and funding of nationally important initiatives.  An independent Chair (Mr Alan Hodges – previous Director General of Emergency Management Australia) will help to ensure that the Committee retains a strategic focus.

Animal Disease Surveillance Programme

Since inception, AHA has managed the National Animal Health Information System (NAHIS).  The outcome from the Animal Health 2010 study supports the company continuing a leadership role in the coordination and enhancement of Australia’s animal disease surveillance system.  The programme thus expands the horizons of involvement with an overarching objective of: “creating an environment for Australian livestock producers and processors in which their customers and consumers have confidence in the safety and quality of livestock products and the manner, method and sustainability of their production.”

The programme is expected to raise the appreciation amongst Members that a sound surveillance programme is critical to continuing trade in livestock and livestock products and the maintenance of Australia’s position at the forefront of international animal health practice.

The first meeting of the Programme Advisory Committee was held on 12-13 September to fit in with other meetings associated with its activities and budgets.  This meeting was attended by Stephen Ware representing industry and the meeting was chaired by Mr Jim Miller – previous Director General of QDPI, who has been appointed to ensure that the committee retains strategic and progressive improvements and efficiencies in disease surveillance activities.

AHBIC will continue to provide updates of the AHA initiatives when they become available.

Fuel Price Rises Hurt Industry

The recent increase in fuel prices has done little to assist beekeepers across Australia to contain costs.  At the time of writing, world oil prices were still in excess of $30 per barrel (159 litres).

For $1.00 per litre retail, the service station operator receives 3 cents to cover costs and make a profit.  The refiner/wholesaler/distributor receives 4.5 cents.  Of the retail price, some 47 cents is government taxes both GST and excise.  Of the remainder, 45 cents is the price of product emerging from the refinery.  The bulk of this 45 cents – close to 34 cents a litre - is the cost of the basic crude oil.  AHBIC has joined in the chorus of those calling for a reduction in government taxation.

Executive to Meet in Melbourne

The AHBIC Executive will meet on 27th September 2000 in Melbourne. Items for consideration include the Apimondia Conference 2005, Industry QA Programme, Native Title, Animal Health Australia and the Industry Readiness Teams, to name a few.  A detailed report will be provided in the next monthly newsletter.

The meeting in Melbourne coincides with the first meeting of the Steering Committee for the Apimondia bid and will include a guided tour of the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre, the proposed venue for Apimondia 2005.

AHBIC Survey

Readers and industry are reminded that the AHBIC Review is under way.  Industry is invited to have its say in this review by completing the Survey which has been widely distributed.  If, however, you have mislaid it or have not received a copy, please do not hesitate to contact the AHBIC office and a replacement will be sent to you.  The closing date for submissions is 12th October 2000.


Crop Report – South Australia

The SAAA has been represented on the Community Reference Group regarding the locust plague control planning.

Each council area will be appointing a Locust Plague coordinator and this is the person all apiarists need to contact with their Apiary Location.  This should be Landholder’s Name, Hundred of ---, Section Number.  Apiary locations need to be reported starting on October 1, 2000.  This information is vital to safeguard the accidental spraying of bees.

Insignificant hatchings of locusts have been reported to date;  the main hatchings are expected to occur towards the end of September.

The Community Reference group members have been advised that plans are in place to set up bases in the last week of September.

Riverland:  White mallee is patchy.  The citrus is looking promising and will break into flower soon.  Onion weed is white with flower but with a poor yield.  The hatching of locusts to date is in larger numbers than expected.
Northern:  Upper – There are some prospects for blue gum.  Ground floras are looking good, but the ground flora prospects hinge on further rain and whether there will be a problem with locust hatchings or fly-ins.

Northern:  Lower – Canola flowering is finishing on the plains, but there is an abundance of cape weed.  Euc. diversifolia is yielding nectar and pollen.  Some swarming evident. Kangaroo Island:  Bees are improving but it is still too cool to work bees.  There is some yield from Euc. diversifolia, but generally too cool.  There are many water-logged crops.  Some canola and cape weed is providing early nutrition.

Central:  Plains canola building up bees well and producing.  Hills enjoyed best season for 30 years.  Good rains have freshened up the trees.  Euc. camaldulensis is suffering with lerp and dying from a type of die back.

South East:  Upper – Some varieties of canola yielding, but better weather conditions are needed to maximise opportunities.  Bees have bred well with some swarming evident.  Jane is just starting to flower.

South East:  Lower – Bees breeding well.

Barossa:  Jane starting to flower.  Bees are breeding well.  Canola in this area is yielding, but good weather needed.  It is an off year for Euc. camaldulensis.

West Coast:  Upper – Some Euc. diversifolia but it has almost finished.  Canola has practically finished.  There are some prospects for Euc. porosa (black mallee).

West Coast:  Lower – Canola is yielding.  Blue gum is starting to flower, but warmer weather is needed.  There are patches of lightly budded Euc. incrasata for about October/November.

Kay Lambert

Crop Report – New South Wales

Canola is yielding well since the onset of warmer weather about the middle of September.  Paterson’s curse is also looking good with some starting to flower.

The central and southern parts of the state have been receiving good rains with the north still looking for good rains.

Yellow box in the central west and parts of the south is still holding good bud with little or no trees flowering yet.

Stringy bark in some parts of the central area and all of the south is holding very solid bud.

Stock Report – New South Wales

Honey is still in short supply in most parts of the state and most beekeepers are not holding any honey.

Eddie Podmore

Resource Report – Queensland

Not a lot has happened lately, except that the site renewal term has been changed back to the original so, if a beekeeper wants to renew a site for five years, it can be done, regardless of the term of the expiring permit.

I expect to have another meeting with Aila Keto soon to work on the new tenure of National Park (Recovery) and I feel optimistic, at this stage, of a good outcome for us.

The first new National Park to be created will probably be in the Scenic Rim area, so we will have much work to do there.

So ends the short and sweet report for this month.

Duncan McMartin

Crop Report – Victoria

Overall prospects, reported in the August notes to be average for the season at best, remain unchanged at this early stage of the season.  The cold wet weather that persisted until mid September, has taken a turn for the better.  All ground flora has been held back by the excessive cold, but will now come on rapidly with the warmer and more stable weather.  Canola too has been held back and, while bees have been picking up enough nectar and pollen for breeding, they will do better from here on.

As the ground dries out and warms up, patersons curse will grow prolifically and should yield.  The extent of this crop will depend heavily on sufficient rain during October to keep the plants vigorous and prolong flowering.  There are reports coming in that the prolonged winter has had an effect on hive strength and some depreciation of production from spring prospects can be expected.

It is generally expected that the mid summer period will not produce a lot of honey.  Beekeepers will be striving during this period to lift apiaries to peak conditions to take advantage of autumn crops that appear to have potential at this stage.

Linton Briggs

Crop Report – Tasmania

Tasmania has experienced a very cold, wet, windy and snowy September.  Rain has given ground flora honey possibilities a boost.

Good flowering of wattle, gorse and willow will yield good essential pollen if the weather picks up. 

Late August/early September, hives were in very good condition.  Due to cold, wet and wind, hives now coming under stress and will need feeding until we get a better weather pattern.

There are no prospects of honey in Tasmania until December unless blue gum yields on the east coast.

Pollination hives are being prepared although, due to Tasmania’s position on GMOs, there will not be the canola grown this year.

Local sales are holding, with only a few enquiries from overseas.  Therefore, stocks being held by packers will hold until new season honey is available.

Fuel and sugar prices will have a serious impact on this industry.

Shirley Stephens

Resource Report

Native Title

There are several Native Title Claims currently registered in Victoria.  Only one of these Claims is in the active phase of mediation.  This is the Wotjobaluk Native Title Claim which covers a large section of Western Victoria, including the Big and Little Deserts and approximately 1,500 other parcels of Crown Lands.

VAA Inc Resources representative, in association with our solicitors, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, have had two meetings with the Claimants and their solicitors.  VAA Inc Resources Committee is acting on behalf of 42 beekeepers who hold bee sites in the Claims area.

At the first meeting the lawyers for the Wotjobaluk presented us with a draft Discussion Paper containing 47 clauses. 

At the second meeting on August 31st, we submitted to the native people changes to some of the clauses by the deletion of some words and the addition of others, as well as the addition of four new clauses. The main changes made are as follows:-

? An agreed process in relation to new bee sites;
? Provision for the renewal of existing bee sites;
? Deletion of clauses requiring beekeepers to pay royalties to Native Title Claimants;
? Inclusion of a clause designed to implement a planning process between beekeepers and Native Title Claimants in relation to the design and implementation of a controlled burning programme;  and
? A clause requiring Native Title Claimants not to interfere with hives or beekeeping equipment on bee sites.

At this stage, we have tacit agreement between both parties on most of the clauses.  We hope to get agreement on a couple of sticking points in the next three months.  Then we need agreement from the State Government, as they also are party to the agreement.

There seems to be some concern in other states that the flood of Native Title Claims will be impossible for the industry to deal with.  As AHBIC National Resources Chairman, and having played an active role in Victorian Native Title issues over the last three years, I feel I can offer some advice.

The Native Title Act 1993 was amended by the Federal Government in July 1998.  Under the amended legislation, new provisions for dealing with Native Title Applications took effect on 30th September 1998.

The new amendments tightened up the system and gave the Federal Court total control of the process.  As far as beekeepers are concerned, all bee site licences and/or permits issued by various state governments will be protected.  Native Title cannot remove or impede any right such as a lease, licence or permit etc., validly (legally) granted before 23rd December 1996.

However, the protection will be as far as the particular legislation and/or regulations state.  The legislation usually only states that beekeepers can occupy a certain parcel of land for the placement of bee hives in order to gather nectar from flowering plants.  All other actions a beekeeper needs to do to produce honey etc. from that land needs to be documented so as agreement can be reached with the Native Title Claimants, and to make sure any agreements are clear-cut, ensuring both parties are fully aware of each parties’ obligations.

The state governments, through the Native Title Tribunal, must inform all licence holders on public lands subject to a Native Title Claim so that they can register their interest.  However, an Association may not necessarily be informed of a particular Claim.  The State Beekeeping Associations can represent these beekeepers as a group.

As I informed the 2nd Annual General Meeting of AHBIC, Legal Aid is available to the beekeeping industry to assist in these Native Title Claims.  I have discussed with out (VAA) lawyers whether they are interested in representing other State Associations in this regard and they are very interest.  They also have extensive experience in Native Title Claims, having lawyers in the firm being involved ever since the original Mabo case.

If beekeepers have been using public lands for bee sites for some years without obtaining licences/permits from the land managers, but only be negotiation with grazier leaseholders, the beekeepers’ rights to be a party to a Mediation Process with the native people is somewhat weaker.  However, this problem is not insurmountable.  The need for legal representation is paramount, as the beekeeper rights cannot be protected by the state government as the state has not given the beekeeper any rights.

Native people groups in a Mediation Process must name two or more people to act on their behalf.  Any Agreement entered into by these people binds the whole group into the Agreement.  The process of a Native Title Claim application through to negotiation and settlement is a slow process.

The important issue is to register your interest by the due date and get your proper legal representation.  After that, you have a fair amount of control over how fast or slow the process proceeds.

Remember, the industry has the right to Legal Aid funds.  It is very doubtful that individual beekeepers could have these same rights.

Bob McDonald

Crop Report And Stock Position Queensland

As conditions dry off in the Channel Country the Yapunyah crop is rapidly coming to an end. Pollen is short and bees are struggling to maintain strength. The dry conditions throughout Queensland have burnt off most of the build areas and few honey prospects will be found before the end of December.

We have received reports of some forests defoliating and bush fires are wiping out large areas of forest on an almost daily basis. October storms have probably never been so important, the rain being needed to stimulate  ground flora for pollen and provide needed moisture for eucalypts.

Southern Queensland is so badly affected that the nearest relief from drought is the central west of NSW, rising fuel costs will  make it impractical for many to travel so far south. The risk is that Canola and Salvation Jane could easily burn off if the dry conditions move south, it would be a long way to go for no reward. Very few deliveries of honey are expected from Queensland beekeepers and they will struggle get bees back in order for mid summer flows. This is looking like the third poor season in a row. 

In the north bees are in  reasonable condition with more prospects than the south, again, rain will be the key.

There is very little honey being held by beekeepers. We can only wait for rain!

Bill Winner