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Blossoming markets face growing pains [Tom Walker]

APRIL 2017 | KAMLOOPS – The education program for the BC Honey Producers Association (BCHPA) semi-annual meeting in Kamloops in early March was host to a full house.  

“We sold every one of the 175 seats,” says BCHPA treasurer Irene Tiampo. “The room was packed.”

Most had come to learn and be entertained by renowned American bee keeper Mike Palmer from Vermont, who shared his 40-plus years of building a sustainable apiary that produces 30 tons of honey annually. Palmer noted that he saw hope for a renewal.

“There used to be a bunch of old bald guys at these kind of talks,” he quipped. “Now we see women and young people in the front row. It’s a wonderful change for our industry.”  

Palmer spent half the day showing producers how to raise their own queens, in their own apiary, using their own stock.  

“Grow your own to replace your bees,” Palmer says. “It’s easy because the bees do the work if you set them up to do the job.”  

“You can grow better bees and queens than you can buy,” Palmer says. “And you avoid the risk of disease that might come with bringing in bees from New Zealand or Australia.”

The education sessions included Svenja Belaoussoff providing an overview of the Canadian Honey Council’s new beekeeper book. Belaoussoff emphasized the bee biosecurity and food safety aspects of the manual.

“Maintaining the high reputation that Canadian honey enjoys is the responsibility of all beekeepers,” she says.

Down to business

Some 70 voting members were welcomed to the business session chaired by BCHPA president Kerry Clark. A number of important issues were presented for discussion by members.  

Food safety regulations were reviewed.  

“The days of not being subject to a health authority are long gone” commented Rudi Peters from Terrace.

Members were reminded that CFIA registration is required for honey producers who send honey to other provinces, export out of the country, or sell directly to retail (and must have a CFIA approved label). Direct sales at the farmgate or farmers’ markets do not require a provincial inspection of this “low-risk product,” yet some farmers’ markets may insist on inspection as a requirement for market participation.

The proposed regulations in the Safe Food for Canadians Act were reviewed by Ted Hancock. The new regulations for licensing, traceability and preventative control plans will only apply to producers with more than $30,000 in gross honey sales or those who are importing, exporting or selling to other provinces. Producers may follow the Canadian Honey Council’s voluntary on-farm food safety program the Canadian Bee Industry Safety Quality Traceability Producer Manual.

Marketing plan

Judy Campbell and Amanda Goodman Lee gave an overview of progress on a BC marketing plan. Members will be surveyed on aspects of the program, including creating a new logo.

“We are trying to create a marketing program where everybody on the street knows that it is a BC product,” Campbell says.

Pollination services are a crucial support for the fruit and vegetable industries in BC and a major source of income for beekeepers. Two items for discussion triggered motions that gave direction to the executive concerning pollination services.

BC Assessment doesn't consider pollination a crop or service that contributes to farm income for farm tax status. By contrast, stud services for horse breeders do qualify.

Several BCHPA members who have cut back on honey production to pursue more lucrative pollination contracts question the policy.

The second motion considered the safety of bees while doing this valuable pollination work. Producers have seen the health of their hives suffer when they are placed in fruit fields, particularly blueberries.  

“The use of fungicides in blueberries was thought to be non-toxic to bees, but we are finding that they actually are,” says first vice-president Jeff Lee. ”The government needs to support us as we pollinate this high-value BC crop.”   

In the past, Alberta colonies that have overwintered in BC have been set out in blueberry fields in the spring and then brought back to Alberta to work in cereal fields but Alberta is now requiring colonies to be inspected before they leave BC and placed in quarantine in northern Alberta and inspected again before they can be placed in fields. Several members said the will consider pulling out of blueberry fields rather than expose their colonies to potential risks.

“We need to work with the blueberry council,” said Clark. “They are our collaborators on this.”

Headlines

Vol.103 Issue 4
APRIL 2017

CLBC April 2017 cover CLBC April 2017