31 Mar 2016

NZ needs to refocus on pollination - beekeepers

7:03 am on 31 March 2016

High honey prices are pulling more people away from pollinating orchards and crops, which could cost the agricultural industry millions of dollars, beekeepers say.

Honeybees pollinate billions of dollars worth of fruit and vegetable orchards each year.

Honeybees pollinate billions of dollars worth of fruit and vegetable orchards each year. Photo: University of Otago

The Hawkes Bay president of the Beekeepers Association, John Berry, said there had been a huge surge of interest in the industry since the price of manuka honey soared.

He said more and more people were turning to producing honey and not placing hives in areas that need pollination, such as orchards.

"The biggest danger is that we're going to lose all our hives for pollination and there will be no hives for apple and kiwifruit pollination, and that day is approaching fairly fast.

"It won't be long before some of the bigger pollinators will look at the economics of it and say 'I have to get out of this to compete in the beekeeping world', and when that day comes there is going to be some real strife.

Mr Berry said the allure of producing manuka honey was taking attention away from the key value of bees.

"The benefit of bees to this country is from pollination of crops, clover being the most important, it's worth billions of dollars every year, but also apples and kiwifruit and raspberries and squash.

"And if that takes second place to manuka production, then the country is going to lose many many millions of dollars."

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