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Proposed honey levy divides beekeepers

A vote by beekeepers on a proposed honey levy next month has seen one industry group rallying its members to reject the proposal.

Apiculture New Zealand, a voluntary body of about 900 members, wants to introduce a commodity levy on honey to help manage industry growth.

The proposed levy would see all 1800 beekeepers in New Zealand with 26 hives or more to pay a levy of 10 cents on each kilogram of honey - collecting about two million dollars a year.

But New Zealand Beekeeping president Jane Lorimer said the the levy was unreasonably high.

"Compare it to the Australian beekeeping scene, where I understand it's only about 2.3 cents per kilo that they pay... and so we think that's going to really badly effect our beekeepers," she said.

Ms Lorimer said she was also concerned the 10 cent levy was going to imposed on all honey varieties, including mānuka honey, despite mānuka being worth much more money.

"You get a lot more money for mānuka and so the poor beekeeper who has got the lower priced product... is going to be severely penalised."

She said another worry was that much of the money would go into administrative costs, instead of targeted research and development.

"The proposed levy is a tax that would hurt struggling beekeepers financially, and yet not be used effectively to solve the industry's growing problems - like falling prices, biosecurity risks, and over stocking, for example", said Ms Lorimer.

"Consultation on the planned levy in recent months exposed a lack of planning and engagement by Apiculture NZ. Beekeepers are unhappy, and Apiculture NZ have already delayed the vote once in the face of this criticism. We are now calling beekeepers to vote 'no'", she said.

Apiculture New Zealand chief executive Karin Kos responded to the criticism by saying the body was the right organisation to manage the levy.

"We absolutely refute the claims of lack of engagement - consultation has been extensive.

"Through that consultation process we got feedback which we included in the final amended commodity levy proposal and we gave beekeepers more time to look at the proposal because that's what they are asked for - more time.

"Again we refute any claim that this was delayed because of criticism - consultation is about listening and incorporating feedback which we did," she said.

Ms Kos said the challenges facing beekeepers after a tough couple of seasons was exactly the reason why a levy, and strong leadership, was needed.

"Now's the time to take action, show some leadership and have a well funded plan of attack to address those issues and the opportunities through a levy,

"Apiculture NZ is the right organisation to manage the levy - it's been well planned, well communicated and balanced to look after the interests of all beekeepers, big and small."

The postal referendum on the proposed honey levy run through February.

Over half the prospective levy payers who vote need to vote 'yes' for the proposal to succeed, providing the "yes" votes represent more than half of the total registered beehives of those who voted.
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