The thriving almond industry in Australia has not been hit directly by the bushfires. But the fires have affected bee population – and this could prove equally devastating. concerns have been raised in Sunraysia ahead of this year’s almond pollination, with the current bushfire crisis killing hundreds of millions of bees across the country.
Almond Board chief executive officer Ross Skinner said while beekeepers were doing their best to restore hive numbers, the industry was worried about the loss of hives.
He said their biggest concern moving forward was the loss of habitat and the ongoing requirement of beekeepers to access public land if, in the future, they are to provide sufficient hives to deal with the almond industry’s expansion.
“We have been in contact with the Australian Honey Bee Association, which we are a member of, to make sure that our efforts align with theirs,” Mr Skinner said.
“We are generally very supportive of the government providing further access to public land and providing new sites to beekeepers, while the habitat recovers.”
Mr Skinner said beekeepers estimated habitat recovery could take anywhere between five and 20 years, depending on the ferocity of fire and the type of flora, which had been destroyed.
“We are certainly interested in finding out the number of hives that have been destroyed and we are supportive of the beekeepers making good on the lost hives, so any efforts to renew their hive numbers we would support,” he said.
“At the moment the industry is needing something like just over 200,000 hives.
“Before the bushfires there was approximately 380,000 hives (from southern Queensland to South Australia) run commercially by beekeepers, so the loss of hives in the first instance may be able to be made good by other beekeepers becoming involved in pollination services.
“There are bees there, but it just depends on whether the additional beekeepers want to undertake pollination services or not.
“We are working closely with the honey bee industry to ensure hive numbers, or the beekeepers recover, and have access to adequate flow of resources.”
Gol Gol apiarist and pollination Trevor Monson said about 60 per cent of his hives were sourced from bushfire affected areas.
He said the honey bee industry were at a time of year where they could split hives of bees and make new ones, however they needed the resources to do so.
In total 150,000 hives are needed for Sunraysia almond growers across 90km of river from Tooleybuc through to Hattah.
Australia is the second largest producer of almonds in the world. In 2015 the area under production was 31,115 ha – producing a record crop of 82,509 tonnes. ... Approximately 68% of almond production(kernel) comes from Victoria's growing regions, followed by 19% in South Australia and 13% in New South Wales.