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Australian Beekeepers Demand $140 Million Compensation for Mandatory Bee Extermination

Australian beekeepers are seeking millions of dollars in compensation after their beehives were forcefully destroyed to stop the varroa mite infestation from spreading.

The New South Wales (NSW) Australian government first announced an $18 million (US$11.6 million) package to affected registered beekeepers when the varroa mite was first discovered near Newcastle in June 2022.

However, affected beekeepers say this existing government compensation payout is inadequate and does not account for the impact the forced destruction of hives has on their income and other agricultural sectors that rely on bees for pollinating.

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Since the first varroa mite outbreak in June 2022, tens of millions of bees have been killed to try and stop the spread, with more than 14,000 beehives forcibly destroyed in the first four months of the outbreak.

With Australian beekeepers struggling after having their beehives and bees destroyed, beekeepers are seeking compensation of up to $140 million (US$90.5 million) from the state and federal government for losses and damages to their honey and pollination businesses.

NSW small business owner and beekeeper Dolfi Benesh said he has lost between $200,000 (US$129,000) and $300,000 (US$194,000) since he was forced to destroy his bee colony in October 2022.

“The bees were loaded with honey ready for the spring and I was ready to expand the business to get more hives,” Mr. Benesh told ABC news.

“That’s when I get a phone call—’We’re going to come and kill your bees within a week’s time get ready.'”

“As soon as you don’t have your own honey fresh to put on the table … your sales drop by 50 percent.”

Mr. Benesh’s 53 hives were amongst the 40 million bees to be destroyed within 14 months, and was given about $30,000 in compensation by the NSW government, which he said would only cover the immediate cost of the hives, not the loss of business from not producing honey.

“As time goes by, I see the losses piling up,” Mr. Benesh said.

“I want to be properly compensated. Not having bees takes all the profitability from the business.”

Mr. Benesh is one of the beekeepers in the upcoming class action lead by lawyer Stewart Levitt who said the state government is “basically destroying small business people” by not compensating beekeepers enough for the amount of losses caused.

“We’ve estimated that the compensation so far of around $19 million (US$12.3 million) for affected apiarists falls short of the mark between $77 million (US$49.8 million) and $140 million (US$90.5 million),” Mr. Levitt said, reported ABC news.

Even beekeepers with unaffected bee colonies but were within the emergency eradiation zones have struggled because their beehives were destroyed.

“They’re not only destroying the beekeepers, they’re also threatening other industries in the agricultural and horticultural sector, and they’re doing it because of misguided and misconceived optimism which wasn’t accompanied by a fair and just attitude to compensation,” Mr. Levitt said on Sep. 1, reported AAP.

Compensation for Affected Beekeepers

While no varroa mites have been detected in Victoria, Victorian beekeepers are on high alert, as multiple varroa mites-infested sites have been detected just across the border in the Sunraysia region of NSW.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture said that more than $16 million (US$10.3 million) has been paid out to about 3,000 NSW beekeepers since the emergency response began.

Mr. Levitt said the door to the class action is open to incorporate any interstate beekeepers if the varroa mite infests bee colonies across the border.

“It depends on how

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