In the first public displays of the honeybee, a highly valued part of South African agriculture, honeybees and the natural environment have been the subject of a major diplomatic incident.
A senior diplomat from the United Kingdom, Sir Martin Sorrell, has criticised South Africa’s move to remove honeybees from its borders, calling the move a “dangerous decision”.
The United Kingdom has long been a supporter of the conservation of honeybees in South African and the UK has been a strong supporter of efforts to protect their habitats.
A delegation of ministers, led by agriculture minister David Rose, visited South Africa on Wednesday to negotiate the removal of the wild bees from its country.
A statement from the South African government said that the diplomatic incident highlighted the “importance” of the protection of honey bees and the importance of international cooperation.
Sir Martin Sorrel, head of the UK’s Department for the Environment and Food, has said the move to withdraw honeybees was “an absolute disgrace”.
Sir Martin’s comments came as a senior diplomat in the UK called for a ban on honeybee importation in South Asia.
The statement by the South Australian Foreign Minister, Peter Whish-Wilson, said that while South Asia has a long history of importing honey, the country had not done so in recent years.
“There are concerns about the importation of honey from South Asia,” he said.
Sir Simon Wood, chief executive of the Australian Beekeeping Federation, called on South Africa to “take urgent action” to stop the imports of honey and honey products from the Indian subcontinent.
“I think we are in a bit of a bind here.
It’s very difficult to take the honey from India, but it’s not as difficult to import honey from the Middle East,” Mr Wood told AM radio.
Mr Wood said that Australia had been importing honey from countries like Iran, Afghanistan and Syria for years and this was only now starting to be threatened by the honey bee importation ban.
“What you’re seeing in India is a complete reversal of decades of Australian policy, which has been to import the honey, and the same is happening in Iran and Syria,” he added.
Sir John Dyson, the founder of the Royal Australian Mint, was among the speakers at the event, which took place in the town of Londonderry.
Mr Dyson has long advocated for the protection and preservation of honeybee colonies in South America and the United States, and his comments in the South Asian country came in response to Sir Martin’s criticism.
“We don’t want to take away honey from any country, but we can make an exception in South-East Asia for South Asia’s honey bees,” Sir Martin said.
South African Prime Minister Raza Rabbani-Urquhart called the move “unprecedented” and said the country was “firmly committed to ensuring that we do not jeopardise the health and well-being of the environment”.
“We are taking this action with the utmost seriousness to protect the health of South Africa and the honey bees of South-West Asia,” she said.