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Staff cuts `could hit British honeybees'.

The British honeybee population, which brings benefits to the agricultural industry by spreading pollen, could be stung by threatened Government cuts.

The Forum of Private Business (FPB), which represents 25,000 small businesses including many in the agricultural sector, says that the Government has "got a bee in its bonnet" about cutting costs.

So the FPB has offered its support to a campaign against the Government's plans to reduce the amount of money spent on the Honeybee Health Programme by a quarter of a million pounds to an annual overall cost of pounds 1m in three years time. These proposed cuts will mean the loss of half its 40-strong staff of bee inspectors.

However, beekeepers say the inspectors are frontline experts who play a vital role in helping them fight diseases which could decimate the bee population such as American Foul Brood, European Foul Brood and Varroasis.

There is also the looming threat of the small hive beetle.

A Government survey showed that honeybees contribute at least pounds 120m to the agricultural economy by spreading pollen.

Nick Goulding, chief executive of the FPB, said the FPB had always argued that good regulation could have positive effects.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 19, 2005
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