A change in audit rules of Risk Management Programmes (RMPs) for honey extraction and processing facilities, which could see some beekeepers move from six-monthly to annual audits, has been hailed as a win for the industry. However, industry body New Zealand Beekeeping Incorporated (NZBI) are concerned that new training requirements could be even more onerous for beekeepers with honey houses, thus eroding any potential benefit.
Discussion between the apiculture industry, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), NZ Food Safety and AsureQuality to allow beekeepers to move to annual audits of their facility has been taking place since 2020. In December last year AsureQuality issued a document outlining the changes and heralding the collaborative work. However, within that document it stated that those wishing to move to an annual audit are required to complete five “mandatory” training courses.
NZBI believe the majority of beekeepers do not need mandatory training and the courses are simply “money gathering and a tick-box exercise” from MPI and AsureQuality.
The industry group were involved in initial meetings around the need for a less onerous audit process for beekeepers’ RMP facilities in 2020, but fellow industry body Apiculture New Zealand completed the process with MPI and AsureQuality last year.
“After those meetings we were of the belief there would be training courses for those who were new to the industry or who had been failing their audits on a regular basis,” NZBI president Jane Lorimer says.
“At that point we were happy with that outcome. From there, we didn’t see much information since the release that AsureQuality have set up these courses and they are now mandatory.”
NZBI expressed their concerns in an email sent to MPI on February 11, and on February 22 received a reply requesting the right to share the correspondence with ApiNZ and AsureQuality. NZBI granted the request, conditional to them being included in correspondence on the matter going forward.
The audit process has various levels, those at level 6 need to be audited twice a year and those at the new level 7 just once. The training is one of numerous requirements for a beekeeper to move to level 7, the rest relate to understanding and adhering to standards of compliance.
AsureQuality’s statement explained the need for the various requirements to move to step 7, stating, “This high standard will have the flow-on effect of minimising the risk and expense of potential product recalls and damage to their own brand along with helping to protect the reputation of NZ Inc. within the global market”.
However, NZBI say they have pointed out to MPI that only between one and three percent of beekeeper audits are deemed “unacceptable”, as per a statement published by MPI in January.
Lorimer says they are also concerned at how often beekeepers pursuing level 7 could be expected to undergo fresh training.
“Export regulations are changing every year, so we are wondering how often we are going to have to repeat them. If you had to repeat the training every three or four years, then it is potentially going to be more costly to move to an annual audit and you are better off staying at Level 6 and not do the training courses.”
Despite feeling they are making a very strong case, Lorimer isn’t confident MPI will see their way of thinking.
“Generally, when MPI does things they are very reluctant to change,” she says.