The incidence of American foulbrood (AFB) in managed beehives is on the up and so too is the per-hive annual levy which all New Zealand beekeepers are obliged to pay, the Management Agency National AFB Pest Management Plan has announced.
When AFB levies come due in June beekeepers will be required to pay $1.95 per colony owned, plus a base rate of $40 per beekeeper. That’s up from $1.70 per hive in 2023, after two years of no change.
Despite the hike and budgeted cost-cutting of $121,000, the Agency is forecasting a loss of $220,000 in the coming year as registered hive numbers have fallen for the fourth straight year, down to 587,208 colonies as at October 31.
The 25c per-colony increase was put out for consultation to all 9057 registered beekeepers in October and 78 responded, most via an online poll. Of them there was an even split of those in favour of the increase and those against. However, of those who provided specific comments on the Agency’s proposed increase, there was an overwhelming majority of opposition.
Two comprehensive written submissions were made, from industry group New Zealand Beekeeping Inc (NZBI) and from Mid Canterbury beekeeper Roger Bray, both of who have also been critical of the Agency on numerous occasions in the past. NZBI’s feedback was once again scathing and called for the consultation to be “re-run, and done properly”. They had four major areas of complaint against the Agency’s operations, including a “flawed” consultation process. NZBI claim the Agency to have a “poor level of understanding of the incidence of AFB”, that their focus on enforcement is misguided and should be more targeted to training beekeepers and that Agency costings are “opaque” and don’t allow beekeepers to adequately understand the situation.
In the latest data from the Agency, incidence of AFB – as reported as a percentage of total registered hives – has increased to 0.55% of colonies, from 0.48% in 2022. Total reported cases of AFB are down though, 3449 being found in 2023 compared to the record-setting 3565 in the previous year. That makes 2023’s total the second most cases of AFB to be reported in a year.
“Before making a decision, The Management Agency Board considered the increased level of AFB risks faced by beekeepers and The Management Agency, due to the increasing number of abandoned/neglected apiaries, rate of inflation, and rising administrative and operational costs to implement the AFB National Pest Management Plan,” the Agency’s notification to beekeepers regarding the levy increase stated.
“The notified rate of levy will provide the funding required to continue to respond to increased AFB risks. Meanwhile, we will continue to regularly review The Management Agency’s operational costs and identify cost-saving opportunities.”
The Agency is now operating from one office, in Rolleston Canterbury, after the Wellington office of the Agency and Apiculture New Zealand closed last year.