This week’s industrial dispute in the Western Cape fruit industry is nothing compared to the threat currently looming over what is a R7bn a year export market, says Terry Bell in his latest Labour Wrap. What the industry — and potentially the country and the continent — now faces is a possible disaster that could reverberate throughout the economy.
Labour Wrap: A R7bn bee problem
The focus here is on that army of unpaid essential workers, bees. Honey bees to be exact, who are the major commercial pollinators worldwide. Bell points out that 70% of the world’s food crops rely on pollination.
“Without bees, there is little pollination, without pollination, there is no fruit — and no jobs or other income,” says Bell. He points out that an estimated one third of bees in the Western Cape are now infected with what has been called “AIDS for bees”, American foulbrood disease. Unless urgent action is taken, the disease could spread northwards and into the rest of Africa.
In areas of the world where it has already manifested itself, foulbrood is regarded very seriously. In New South Wales in Australia, for example, it is a notifiable disease. But by adopting very stringent methods, countries such as Australia and those in the European Union have been able to control, if not entirely eradicate, foulbrood.
However, the official reaction in South Africa has been “tardy” says Bell. And he notes that official agencies still regard antibiotics as a means of fighting foulbrood. However, antibiotic treatment has failed around the world and Australian beekeepers maintain that their use merely masks the problem, making the spread easier.
Urgent action needs to be taken, says Bell. He calls on readers and listeners to put as much pressure as possible on the authorities to act before there are signs of collapse. This should not be another case, he says, of waiting until the very edge of disaster before not only starting talks, but taking serious action.
Suggestions about how best to ensure that the authorities no longer drag their feet, along with comments and criticisms should be made, as always, through firstname.lastname@example.org