Strategy to save Western Cape bees and create jobs

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Cape Town – The Department of Agriculture, together with bee associations in the Western Cape, has released a new strategy aimed at ensuring the sustainability of the bee population in the province.

Minister of Economic Opportunities Alan Winde said that a properly regulated and managed industry had the potential to create jobs and expand the economy.

“The report shows that in South Africa, we import a lot of honey. South Africa has imported 2 000 tonnes of honey annually since 2010, and honey production has dropped to 40% of what it was in the 1980s,” Winde said.

“This is an agri-processing opportunity, to produce local honey, and honey-related products right here in the Western Cape,” he added.

According to the deciduous fruit producers governing body Hortgro, the current pollination needs required by bee-dependent deciduous fruit crops are 65 000 pollination units – a demand currently being met.

The bee industry has, however, identified several problems affecting bees, among them insufficient forage, theft and vandalism, disease, environmental hazards such as pollution and exposure to external factors such as fires and drought.

The single largest concern is that there will not be enough forage for bees in the Western Cape.

“This is a good opportunity for us. This is a detailed plan and we now have a line of communication with the various government departments,” said chairman of the Western Cape Bee Industry Association, Dr Tlou Masehela.

“This will require resources, and we must explore ways of getting those. The industry at large should really pull together and make this work.”

According to the South African National Biodiversity Institute, more than 50 different crops in South Africa are reliant on insect pollination, making the honeybee as important to agriculture as water, land, and air.

South Africa’s honeybee species relies on both indigenous and exotic species, like eucalyptus, flowering crops and suburban plants to provide forage sources year-round.

One major problem that has been identified is that eucalyptus has been targeted by DAFF’s Working for Water programme because they are an alien invasive species. This has seen six species of the tree being targeted for removal, even in when they pose no water threat.

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