Doomed with­out bees

Tasmanian Country - - NEWS - Wayne John­ston

ON any farm, there list of jobs to do.

Most farm­ers end up do­ing the ma­jor­ity them­selves, though there are some ex­cep­tions such as shear­ing or other con­tract op­er­a­tions that re­quire spe­cialised equip­ment.

One job around the farm that we of­ten over­look or even for­get, is con­ducted by tens of thou­sands of work­ers.

They go about their job with no complaints, no breaks and no pay, how­ever with­out them not only our farms but our food sup­ply chain would cease to ex­ist.

I am of course talk­ing about the in­te­gral role that bees play in the food pro­duc­tion sys­tem.

They may be small, but they are the crit­i­cal el­e­ment that al­lows us to pro­duce food.

As most would know bees are well recog­nised for their abil­ity to pro­duce honey, and in Tas­ma­nia there is a strong in­dus­try based around this prod­uct.

The honey sec­tor re­lies, in the most part, on the Leather­wood nec­tar flow that em­anates from our forests. In or­der for this valu­able in­dus­try to con­tinue and re­main sus­tain­able, ac­cess to th­ese ar­eas for Tas­ma­nia’s bee­keep­ers is vi­tal.

The other el­e­ment of the is a long sec­tor is the pol­li­na­tion ser­vices that are pro­vided to a wide range of agri­cul­tural prod­ucts — ev­ery­thing from cher­ries to sun­flow­ers.

There are some crops that are in large part pol­li­nated by other in­sects or the wind, but on bal­ance, bees pro­vide the largest share of the pol­li­na­tion du­ties. With­out them we would all be on a very lim­ited diet.

What is not well un­der­stood is how frag­ile our sys­tem is. For ex­am­ple, bees are threat­ened with a range of ex­otic dis­eases and pests that are not cur­rently in Aus­tralia or Tas­ma­nia.

Any num­ber of th­ese would have cat­a­strophic im­pacts on our bee pop­u­la­tion.

There are an es­ti­mated half a mil­lion man-made bee­hives in Aus­tralia, and one dis­ease in­cur­sion alone could de­stroy the bulk of the na­tive bee pop­u­la­tion and se­ri­ously im­pact the honey bee pop­u­la­tion as well.

In such a sit­u­a­tion, we would need to in­crease our bee­hives to 750,000 just to main­tain our present level of agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion.

This prospect alone is one of the rea­sons that the TFGA takes biose­cu­rity so se­ri­ously and why we de­mand that the high­est pos­si­ble stan­dards are main­tained in Tas­ma­nia.

Now that we have some un­der­stand­ing of the im­por­tance of bees in agri­cul­ture we need take that un­der­stand­ing fur­ther. The cur­rent gov­ern­ment of­ten talks about in­creas­ing agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion to $10 bil­lion by 2050 and we con­tinue to seek a gen­uine im­ple­men­ta­tion plan to achieve that.

One of the flaws in the cur­rent strat­egy is that it over­looks the im­por­tant role that bees will play in this ex­pan­sion. It is im­per­a­tive that, as th­ese plans are im­ple­mented, the bee in­dus­try is con­sulted and that the im­por­tance of bees in achiev­ing th­ese goals is recog­nised.

Look­ing for­ward to see­ing you all at Agfest next week. Come and visit us, and our site shar­ers and cor­po­rate part­ners, at site 605, Sixth Av­enue. EN­TRIES are open for Royal Ho­bart Fine Food Awards, one of the big­gest an­nual food award pro­grams in Aus­tralia.

Al­most 1600 en­tries came from ev­ery state and the ACT last year. More than 500 of th­ese en­tries came from cities and towns across Tas­ma­nia.

En­tries close on June 24 and judg­ing starts at the Ho­bart Show­ground be­tween July 27 and July 30.

An ini­tia­tive of the Royal Agri­cul­tural So­ci­ety of Tas­ma­nia, the awards are more than 20 years old.

They pro­mote ex­cel­lence in food mak­ing and are judged by a panel of na­tional ex­perts.

RAST or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee chair­woman An­nette Em­mett re­places Robert Tanner, who has re­tired af­ter dis­tin­guished ser­vice to the Food Awards and the Royal Ho­bart In­ter­na­tional Wine Show.

Al­most 500 classes of foods will be judged in sec­tions rang­ing from sausage rolls and cor­dials, to coffee, seafood and herbs and spices.

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