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Beekeepers counting the cost of prescribed burning

After one of the lowest production years on record, WAFarmers Beekeepers section is concerned about the impact of the upcoming prescribed burning programme. With the programme about to start in earnest over the next few weeks, beekeepers will have to wait to assess what damage will be done to 2019’s Jarrah and other honey crops for 2019.

WAFarmers Beekeepers Section President Stephen Fewster said that commercial beekeepers are feeling the effect of larger than normal prescribed burns undertaken by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA).

“It was looking like a successful season for Jarrah last year (2018) as the trees budded well, however as beekeepers inspected their sites for the Jarrah honey flow the damage from DBCA prescribed burns was evident with the trees having dropped their buds due to the heat of the fires,” Mr Fewster said.

Looking around the unburnt areas, the Jarrah has buds on again which will flower in November 2019.

Mr Fewster believes the industry and the state has lost millions in export revenue from the loss of 2018’s Jarrah honey crop. New markets have recently been developed in China, Japan and the EU, these may now be compromised.

Chair of the Bee Industry Council of WA (BICWA) Leilani Leyland said that based on the current Forrest Management Plan and DBCA prescribed burning quota over the next five years, BICWA estimates the cumulative impact of prescribed burning, logging and mining equates to almost one million hectares.

“The estimated quota will essentially touch all aspects of current and future honey production areas and its ability to support a growing high-value agriculture industry,” Ms Leyland said.

Beekeepers understand and support the need for prescribed burning to reduce the risk of out of control wildfires and for the safety of the community.

However, the WA Beekeepers would like to see the development of an industry consultation model whereby areas of high significance to the beekeeping industry and the timing of these burns are heard and considered. We’re sure the timing of some burns could be moved to help beekeepers take advantage of upcoming honey flows. The burning not only affects Jarrah but also other varieties of Eucalypts and the coastal sandplain.

While WAFarmers Beekeepers section is not opposed to prescribed burning, the beekeeping industry would like to see the focus changed to a “risk” based reduction target rather than an “area” based reduction target that is currently in place, similar to the model that the Victorian and NSW governments have put in place. WAFarmers Beekeepers Section would also like to have some input into the forward planning of areas and the timing of the proposed burns.

WAFarmers beekeeping section represents the commercial beekeepers of WA.

Source: WAFarmers