INCREASED funding for beekeepers has been announced by the EU, with matching support from the Government.
An allocation of €150,000 is on its way from Brussels for the 2011-2013 period, with the Government providing a further €150,000 in matching support.
While the €300,000 total may seem modest beside other agriculture support, it is an increase on the previous funding available and recognises the key importance of bees for pollinating agricultural and food crops.
Ireland’s 24,000 hives represent just 0.2% of the EU’s bees. Spain has by far the biggest number of hives at almost 2.5 million or 18% of Europe’s total.
Independent member of the European Parliament Marian Harkin said the EU funding is particularly welcome.
It is to be used for research into programmes to tackle disease problems which have decimated world bee colonies.
“While the economic output of Ireland’s beekeepers is not comparable with agricultural production in monetary terms, the bee colonies have huge importance in crop pollination and they also have an important role in heading off the threat to biodiversity,” she said.
Ms Harkin said the Federation of Irish Beekeepers and the Department of Agriculture deserve great credit for developing a three-year programme for the preservation and expansion of Ireland’s beekeeping sector.
The funding follows the approval by the European Commission of the national programmes of the 27 member states to improve the production and marketing of apiculture products for the period 2011-2013.
EU financing of the programmes has increased by almost 25% from €26m to €32m per year compared to the previous period (2008-2010).
The Commission said the health of the beekeeping sector is a sensitive issue given the role of bees for pollination. For several years the sector has been facing an unprecedented mortality of bees. National programmes are currently the only tool available to partially offset the loss of bees.
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