Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (15:13): I rise to talk about a biosecurity issue that is now not only impacting nationally but having a detrimental impact on South Australia. The varroa destructor mite is the most serious global pest to honey bees. Australia was the only honey bee industry free of varroa mite until it was detected in New South Wales last year.
The federal government has now announced the transition from eradication to management and in South Australia the 2,000 registered beekeepers support a $2 billion horticultural industry and 85 per cent of that industry relies on pollination services.
Chaffey is the premium food bowl of South Australia, with perennial crops and annual crops, incorporating citrus, stone fruit and vegetables. Importantly the almond industry, the most important part of the apiary industry, is a billion dollar industry to the state's economy.
Here in South Australia we currently have between 60,000 and 70,000 beehives. We are currently 10,000 short. Those 80,000 beehives are needed for a period of one month for pollination services to make those almond industry trees viable. For those 12,000 hectares in the ground, it currently costs about $200 per hive to service the industry—that is a $1.2 million up-front cost before a single almond is picked. With growing demand and increased plantings of trees, the almond industry is currently pouring millions of dollars into combating varroa mite, and yet the almond industry were not consulted by this consultative committee.
This new advisory committee has been set up and it has been put on the agenda. It will have a make-up of the Beekeepers' Society of South Australia, two representatives from the South Australian Apiarists' Association, one representative from the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council, and a representative from each pollination-dependent industry—yet there is no-one from the almond industry. I think it is just outrageous that this announcement has been made without contacting the Almond Board of Australia.
The chair, Don Plowman, is a highly respected public servant. I have worked with Don as a minister; I worked with him as a shadow minister. He will do a sterling job, but he will have challenges. The chair will have to cut through the committee individuals' own self-interests to make sure that the state bodies have a responsible committee set up in the best interests of the honey bee industry.
I have spoken to state bodies, national bodies, people within apiary and the nut industry to gain a better understanding. Today, the questions have been asked: will the government, PIRSA or Biosecurity SA consider gazetting Lindsay Point as being part of South Australia with honey bee movement? Those pollination services are now becoming more complex every day.
If the advisory committee is to be of value to South Australia, it needs to be serious about preparing for varroa and managing detections, which means regulated movement needs to be addressed, we need to educate and upskill apiarists as well as liaison officers on the ground, and we need more surveillance. It is critical that the government take responsibility to set up this committee and act quickly. As the ag minister has said, the varroa destructor could result in losses of $70 million. I must advise the minister: $70 million is the tip of the iceberg; $70 million is just the initial impact of having varroa mite come into our honey bee population. We could have far-reaching impacts on pollination-dependent industries, particularly those permanent horticultural crops.
While I am here speaking about biosecurity, I do want to touch on Queensland fruit fly. South Australia has been dealing with a scourge of not only the Queensland fruit fly but in recent years we have seen the Mediterranean fruit fly that hit every Adelaide backyard. What we saw was that the pressure put on people who had backyard fruit trees was like never before. But now we have an upcoming season, which means more pressure, more movement. We currently have 42 outbreaks in the Riverland. Not only is it a significant cost to the Riverland's economy but it is also seeing people moving out of the horticulture industry due to the unviability of being able to grow fruit and put it into our markets.
We have zero tolerance, the liaison officers, the Loxton facility, the Port Augusta irradiation facility, and the Mediterranean fruit fly releases of sterile flies. It is up to growers and householders to continue to be vigilant. I am calling on all Riverlanders and all South Australians and visitors not to bring fruit to the Riverland, and make sure you pick up and make hygiene a number one priority around your fruit trees.