APIARIST’S OPINION: SCOTT WILLIAMSON
Last month’s story The Non-Compliance Conundrum highlighted some serious issues for our industry that I would like to elaborate on. My partner and I are small scale commercial producers of honey and pollen and currently have a RMP certified facility where we process our products for sale domestically and export. There are two issues tied up in the complex issue of selling non-complying honey.
The cost of meeting compliance requirements is our single biggest cost as a business. The one-size-fits-all, user-pays system is a huge impediment to innovation and business development. It pushes people to seek to "get around the rules", and drives the smallest of players underground.
I could go on at length about the high cost of every aspect of food safety accreditation and compliance, and its impacts on the industry and beekeepers generally, but I might go on a while and risk getting wild! Simple things like the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) export beekeeper listing – $200-odd for each beekeeper who wants to sell honey for export to be on a list with the very same information that the American Foulbrood Management Agency already collects. It would be funny were it not just an easy example of the issues we face every day.
Should little Kiwi jokers comply?
Most definitely. On a trip to the West Coast recently I saw local honey for sale in a number of places, i-sites, petrol stations and the like. Not one – yes that is zero – complied with the labelling requirements and who knows where it was extracted and packed. No one could tell me if it was tutin tested. No one could tell me how they knew it was actually manuka honey they were selling.
Why do I think they should comply? One mistake, one person killed by tutin poisoning, one contamination issue or mis-labelling issue is sheeted home to everyone in the industry, not just the little guys and not just the jokers who don’t comply. The viral story spreads irrespective of borders, may be out of context and …boom.
It takes just a single problem to become an issue for those of us who do comply.
If we want to improve the situation, MPI needs to make it easier for people to comply and then enforce those standards. The industry and the media need to have zero tolerance. Heck, I bet these people are not even reporting their income to the IRD and paying tax. Another cost the old fools who comply have to deal with.
I'd really like to see MPI and our current Government engage on these costs and processes and make a public statement and back it up with actual enforcement action.
Scott Williamson is a beekeeper of 25 years experience, apiculture tutor, owner of a 200 hive business based in Nelson, and a former president of the Nelson Beekeepers Club.