17 Sep 2009

Australia honey ban may remain for two years

4:13 pm on 17 September 2009

A ban on honey imports from Australia could stay in place for up to two years while the Ministry of Agriculture (MAF) carries out further investigations into pest and disease risks.

Ministry staff are carrying out the work in response to an independent report on the conditions it set for allowing Australian honey and other bee products into the country.

The Government appointed an expert panel after beekeepers successfully challenged the import plan in court, arguing that the trade would increase the risk of bringing European foul brood and other bee diseases into the country.

The panel said the ministry needed to review some of the scientific reasoning behind its import standard.

MAF director general Murray Sherwin says three bee pests and diseases are being studied: the P. alvei bacterium, which he says may already be in New Zealand, the Nosema ceranae parasite, and Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus, which has been linked to colony collapses overseas.

Mr Sherwin says there will be more surveillance work to determine whether some of the organisms are present and further study on how susceptible they are to heat treatment.