The varroa mite (Varroa jacobsoni) biosecurity incursion at the Port of Townsville on 27th June 2016 is being addressed under an agreed eradication response plan that is to be funded by government and affected industries under the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed (EPPRD). In 2006 the Australian Almond Industry agreed to a nil-rated Emergency Plant Pest (EPP) Response Levy and agreed that it is to be activated in the event of an eradication response.
As one of the industries highly dependent on honeybees for pollination the Australian almond industry’s share of the varroa mite eradication cost of $2.5 million is $317,404. The Commonwealth Government will underwrite this and it is proposed that this be repaid over a three-year period 2016/17 to 2018/19. To meet this repayment obligation, the ABA Board has endorsed an activation of the emergency response levy from nil-rated to a levy of:
- $0.00100 per per kilogram for almonds in their shells; and
- for shelled almonds $0.00133 per kilogram
This levy will be deactivated once the almond industry’s cost share is recovered.
The response plan has been developed to provide a high degree of surety that the varroa mite will be eradicated, and the results achieved to date appear promising. The eradication plan includes establishing exclusion zones, location and destruction of feral hives and surveillance of managed hives. Several surveillance methods are being used including queen pheromone traps to capture male bees, sweep netting of flowering plants and feeding stations to attract foraging bees.
In considering the value of funding the eradication activities, the ABA Board was mindful that the cost per hive in the USA for almond pollination is more than A$250 due in part to the additional management costs incurred by apiarists to control varroa mite. The additional annual cost to the Australian almond industry for pollination services, should hive costs rise to the Californian level, is more than $22 million per year.
Activating the Emergency Plant Pest (EPP) Response Levy
The EPPRD covers the management and funding of biosecurity incursion responses to emergency plant pest (EPP) incidents. The Deed also formalises the role of industry participation in decision making and the contribution towards the costs.
The Australian almond industry agreed to enact a levy set at $0.00 in August 2006 and made formal application for the establishment of this levy to sit alongside the almond R&D levy.
The varroa mite eradication will be the almond industry’s first use of the EPP Response levy. The levy is compulsory for all growers and will be collected by the Commonwealth Government’s Levies Revenue Service, in the same way as the existing R&D levy.
The flowchart attached depicts the process involved for activating the almond industry’s EPP Response Levy. The process can take up to six months from start to finish.
- The ABA, as the industry representative body for almonds, is applying to the Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources requesting that the EPPR levy be activated to a rate of $0.00100 per per kilogram for almonds in their shells; and $0.00133 per kilogram for shelled almonds until the cost to the almond industry is recovered
- Commencement of a consultation period, where growers with any comments or concerns about the levy should discuss them with Andrew Downs, ABA Industry Development Manager email@example.com or 08 8584 7053 or firstname.lastname@example.org