Legislative Council: Thursday, July 07, 2022


Varroa Mite

The Hon. F. PANGALLO (14:47): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development a question about bees.

Leave granted.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: I acknowledge the minister's statement today. The state government earlier this year imposed indefinite restrictions on a range of bees and products arriving from New South Wales after the outbreak of the varroa mite, which as we know can cause serious damage to beehive colonies. Many New South Wales producers are also having to face euthanising their colonies, and special permission must now be given by the state government for any bees from New South Wales to come here. Bans are also applying to apiary products and appliances and beekeeping plants or components. There are also issues with restrictions being placed on pig herds from parts of Queensland and New South Wales.

My question to the minister is: given there are many almond growers in the Riverland as well as stone fruit producers, which we know need bees to help pollinate their orchards, does she know how many of these growers have relied on hives being brought in across the border? What assurances can she give them that they will be able to pollinate their crops? In the event of losses, will the government be in a position to provide compensation? Has she consulted with the pig industry about the impacts that it could have on them?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:49): I thank the honourable member for his question. It certainly is an incredibly important question. The varroa mite is an incredibly destructive pest, which is certainly causing a great deal of concern in terms of both beekeepers but also industries such as the member has referred to in the almond industry.

The South Australian almond industry relies on commercially managed and supplied European honey bees, which is the one that is affected by the varroa mite. These are the most efficient and effective pollinator of almond flowers. Almond pollination by bees takes place usually around late July or in August, and many hives are sourced from within South Australia but large numbers of hives are also brought into the state to meet the pollination needs.

I am advised that 70,000 hives are needed to pollinate the two major regions, being the Riverland, which has over 11,000 hectares, and the Adelaide Plains, approximately 669 hectares. Almonds are one of the largest fruit crops produced in South Australia in farmgate production value, which in 2021 was estimated to be $150 million. In that same year, South Australia produced just over 21,000 tonnes of almonds.

In terms of compensation in the event that those bees are not going to be able to be brought into South Australia, I am certainly aware that there are compensation provisions in place for those who need to destroy their bees or hives. I will check in regard to the flow-on industries and bring that back to the member.

In terms of his questions in regard to pigs and the notice that was in the Gazette this week, there has actually been no change for the entry conditions for pigs. The reason it appears in the Gazette is a technical operational one in regard to what must be gazetted, withdrawn and then regazetted. So the 4 July 2022 South Australian Government Gazette revokes all previous gazettes for section 33 of the Livestock Act 1997, which relates to conditions of entry for livestock, livestock products and other property into South Australia or a specified part of the state.

That is why the conditions for entry of pigs is republished, along with all other new and existing entry conditions, so that the Gazette always remains complete for this section of the act.

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Pangallo has a supplementary.