CATCH THE BUZZ – New Zealand Beekeepers All Under One Umbrella. “It’s The Common Sense Way Forward” Beekeepers Feel.

Alan Harman

New Zealand’s long-divided apiculture industry has voted for unification.

The Federated Farmers Bees group, the Honey Packers and Exporters Association and the National Beekeepers Association have voted by a substantial majority to proceed with unification.

The vote was taken at the New Zealand apiculture conference.

“The three associations have all endorsed the proposal to unify the industry and work towards strengthening and growing New Zealand’s apiculture industry,” Federated Farmers Bee section chairman John Hartnell says.

“Many in the industry have been proposing this outcome for a number of years and I’m really excited about where this decision will lead us as we progress towards a strong and progressive single unified industry body.”

A unification working group has recommended an interim governing board of 12 with an independent chairman aiming to launch the new national body by next April. It would grow out of the National Beekeepers’ Association and the Federated Farmers Bee Industry Group would be wound down.

National Beekeepers’ Association president Ricki Leahy says he’s excited about what the merger offers the industry moving forward.

Honey Packers Association chairman Allen McCaw calls the decision a hugely positive step for an industry that is changing rapidly.

“We need to have a representative body that reflects all stakeholders across our wider industry,” he says.

Beekeeping began in New Zealand when two hives were shipped from Australia in 1839.

The National Beekeepers Association, formed more than 100 years ago, has almost 700 members in 11 branches throughout New Zealand.

Under the plan, the new group will represent commercial and hobby beekeepers, exporters, packers, food manufacturers and health product makers.

It’s estimated the new association will need NZ $1.9 million (US $1.31 million) to get into full operation with NZ $484,000 (US $334,526) for administration, NZ $515,000 (US $355,850) for honey research and NZ $950,000 (US $656,538) to fund extended market access.

The industry expects the government to chip in with some of the needed money.

The working group said that to be profitable and sustainable, the industry needs a formalized administration and a single national organization funded by a commodity levy.   With no compulsory levies at the moment, the proposal is for the interim board to be funded by a voluntary subscription.

Hartnell says the greater majority across all stakeholders are supportive of a merger because it’s the wish of the industry and “it’s the common sense way forward.”

He says it hasn’t been easy getting there.

“But I think at the end of the day the industry is maturing as it grows,” Hartnell says. “We all realize that the industry is far bigger than it was 10 years ago, so it’s vital that we engage with all stakeholders as we drive to the future.”

“It’s about working together to ensure the integrity of our products and services are maintained at all times and delivering a robust industry model which will meet the challenges we will face over the next decade and beyond.”

The bee industry has a lot more to offer New Zealand than its estimated annual contribution of NZ$5 billion (US$3.45 billion) a year Hartnell says.

“With a unified body the opportunities and doors will open, which is fantastic for all stakeholders in the apiculture industry in New Zealand,” he says.