Mr Patsy McGlone (Mid Ulster): To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to detail the support his Department provides to beekeepers.
Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs: My Department recently launched two new initiatives in Northern Ireland aimed at protecting all pollinators, including honeybees. The UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme and All-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2021-2025 promotes approaches that will allow communities, farmers and businesses to increase pollinator-friendly land management techniques. These initiatives build on earlier plans aimed at creating and sustaining a landscape where honeybees can flourish and continue to make a welcome contribution, through pollination services, to crop production.
Honeybees are susceptible to brood disease and are at risk from the introduction of exotic pests such as the small hive beetle. DAERA supports the beekeeping sector through implementing legislation protecting the health of honey bees. DAERA applies risk based official controls on movements of bees into NI which are required to be pre-notified and accompanied by an Animal Health Certificate, issued by the competent authority of the country of origin following inspection by an official.
DAERA supported by the Beekeeper Associations maintain an on-line voluntary register, Data Bees. This currently has 860 active beekeepers with 1137 apiaries registered. This register assists in surveys and in the management of outbreaks of notifiable diseases. The Department maintains a specific honey bee health contingency plan to control and eradicate findings of high risk pests identified entering or within NI.
My Department’s official controls and bee health surveillance work is supported by the DAERA sponsored Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), who provide scientific and diagnostic support to identify and diagnose bee pests and diseases, including the small hive beetle, which is an emerging risk to apiculture in Northern Ireland.
DAERA’s 2011 “Strategy for the Sustainability of the Honey Bee” provides the basis within which the Department co-operates with members of Beekeeping Associations, as well as individual beekeepers to promote the health of honey bee colonies in Northern Ireland.
My Department is engaging with Beekeeping Associations in NI with the aim of developing formal Partnership Agreements. The Partnership Agreements will establish a forum through which challenges and opportunities can be addressed.