The Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Honey Bee Products will provide a much-needed boost to Australia’s valuable, but largely untapped, honey bee industry by bringing together industry and research expertise from across Australia.
Established in 2017, the five-year CRC aims to resolve current industry problems that limit the value and expansion of the industry.
At present, honey bee product value is estimated at $125 million for honey, beeswax, pollen, royal jelly, venom and honey bee exports, with a further $6.5 billion farm gate value generated by the 44 food crops wholly or partly reliant on honey bee pollination.
Healthy bees are an essential ingredient of Australia’s agriculture economy.
We have one of the healthiest honey bee populations in the world and through quarantine efforts, bee diseases, including the sucking mite Varroa, have not yet reached Australian shores.
Experts predict that if a major bee disease was to arrive in Australia, national agricultural production would decline by 26%, equivalent to a consumer surplus loss of between $12.4 billion and $27.2 billion.
And while Australia currently has 500,000 bee hives, it needs 750,000 to qualify for pollination service security.
The CRC for Honey Bee Products will help provide pollination security by increasing the value of the industry to attract and train new professional beekeepers and increase the number of hives.
It will also pursue a marketing approach similar to the successful efforts with New Zealand’s Manuka honey from a Leptospermum species.
Aligning with Australia’s ‘clean and green’ marketing focus, the CRC will also develop a chain of custody from bush to product that becomes core to the training and education of stakeholders to protect the brand.
It will use geographic information system (GIS) and economic expertise to value hive sites for both product quality and impact on bee health, and develop a ‘bee credit’, which together with the ‘carbon credit’ will give new found value to native bush sites and support their conservation.