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New Hives Needed for Australia’s Massive Almond Expansion


Almond orchards currently use 195,000 hives during their busy pollination season, but that number will rise quickly as new orchards are planted.

Select Harvests technical manager Ben Brown said the industry, mainly located along the Murray River in the NSW Riverina, north-west Victoria and neighbouring South Australian Riverland, would need to attract more bee keepers from multiple states.

“I think Queensland potentially could be an area that increases its supply of hives to almonds,” he said.

“Hives from Queensland do come down for pollination now, but that isn’t the mainstay of the almond pollination supply, which is typically NSW and Victoria.

“And within [the major bee hive supply] states, NSW and Victoria, they may look to increase their supply as well.”

Almond producers met with biosecurity officers and government officials this week at a Select Harvests orchard in Robinvale, north-west Victoria, for a forum hosted by Agriculture Victoria on how the massive increase can be achieved.

ASX-listed Select Harvests is the country’s second largest almond producer, behind the Singaporean-owned Olam Australia.

Almonds are Australia’s most valuable horticultural exports, bringing in around $1 billion annually.

Busy bees swing into action
The pollination season is under way now and biosecurity officers at the orchard were inspecting hives.

Mr Brown said it was a busy month for the industry.

“We’re right in the thick of [the] almond bloom at the moment, depending on the orchard and the varieties,” he said.

“But with this warmer weather this week… most orchards will be in full bloom within the next day or two.

“Bee [hives] are drawn from all parts of eastern and south eastern Australia.

“Hives began to arrive on our orchards towards the end of July and the start of August and then we’ll be going for probably another two weeks.”

Select Harvests is spending $3 million this season to hire 30,000 bee hives for the month.

New opportunities ahead
Rapid growth in demand has led to plans for large-scale planting of new trees.

Almond orchards in Australia covered 28,000 hectares last year, but the industry expects to add between 10,000 and 14,000 hectares over the next five years.

“If it’s 10,000 [new] hectares that are planted, the industry would need about 265,000 hives, compared with about 195,000 now,” Mr Brown said.

“If we see 14,000 hectares planted, then the hive requirement by 2020 or so would be about 300,000 hives.”

The problem is not necessarily a shortage of bee hives.

Mr Brown said the real challenge was engaging more bee keepers to bring more hives to almond orchards.

The urgent demand will create new opportunities for the bee keeping industry.

“We see it as a positive opportunity,” he said.

“Pollination is a key part of the bee keepers’ yearly enterprise, as is obviously honey and bee’s wax and packaged bees and various other things.

“But pollination is definitely a key part of their enterprise, so there’s opportunities for them to capitalise on this expansion.”

Source: David Sparkes, Rural ABC

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