AGRICULTURE Victoria has taken steps to ensure this year’s almond pollination season goes ahead, with permits to be issued to Victorian, Queensland and South Australian beekeepers, allowing them to enter the Sunraysia region.

Beekeepers who are granted a permit will be required to inspect their hives before arriving at Victorian almond orchards to protect the state’s bees from varroa mite, which has been detected in New South Wales.

Bees, hives, equipment and bee products from New South Wales are prohibited from entering Victoria.

Agriculture Victoria will continue to review the situation and consider making amendments to the permit system as conditions change.

Victoria’s Chief Plant Health Officer Dr Rosa Crnov said the Sunraysia permit system has been extended to include South Australia and Queensland to ensure bees can be sourced for Victoria’s valuable almond pollination to go ahead.

“We’re doing all we can to support Victoria’s almond producers and to keep Victoria free of varroa mite,” Dr Crnov said.

“Our bee biosecurity team will be on the ground during the pollination season, inspecting hives and working with beekeepers to ensure hives arrive and leave in a healthy state.”

Varroa mite is a serious threat to Australia’s bee population, and Victoria’s $524 million almond industry, which relies on pollination.

The state’s almond producers, located in the Sunraysia region, require between 150,000 and 200,000 hives to pollinate crops every August.

The detection of Varroa mite so close to pollination season has made sourcing hives for this year’s almond crop more challenging.

Dr Crnov said the Victorian permit system and the presence of Agriculture Victoria in the region will help protect bees during this busy time, and assist efficient tracing if varroa mite is detected.

“Check your hives for Varroa mite and if you see anything suspicious, please report it immediately to the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881,” Dr Crnov said.

“If you plan to take beehives to the Sunraysia region, visit the Agriculture Victoria website and apply for a permit.”

Permit applications can be made at agriculture.vic.gov.au/varroa