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Extreme weather spells disaster for Chile’s beekeeping industry

Extreme weather spells disaster for Chile's beekeeping industry

Extreme weather events, including significant floods and wildfires, have wreaked havoc on Chile’s bee colonies, essential pollinators for the country’s vital avocado and almond crops. The events, described as the worst in a decade, have critically endangered a key component of the South American nation’s multi-billion-dollar food industry.

Extreme weather conditions, including major floods and wildfires earlier this year, have caused significant damage to the humble bee colonies in Chile. These colonies are instrumental in pollinating crops of avocados and almonds, making their devastation a severe blow to one of the primary food-producing nations in the global south.

Mario Flores, president of the National Beekeeping Movement (Monachi), expressed his concern over the issue, stating that over 3 000 beehives were affected just last week due to heavy rains in Chile’s south-central region. He highlighted the critical nature of the situation faced by the national beekeeping industry, stating, “We were affected by the fires and now the floods.”

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The bee population in Chile has suffered significantly in recent years due to drought. These bees play a crucial role in pollinating a vast number of the country’s export crops, including cherries, blueberries, and apples. These fruits are part of a multi-billion dollar food industry.

Losses have escalated during the recent floods, as described by beekeeper Carlos Nunez. He reported that 300 of his 500 beehives were destroyed last week when the Cachapoal River overflowed in a province south of the capital, Santiago. “It was a total loss. What was saved we are going to see if it can be recovered,” he lamented, adding, “Everything is lost.”

To provide financial assistance to farmers, particularly those in areas stretching from Santiago to the southern Biobio region, the government has declared an agricultural emergency.

Nunez voiced the concerns of many, stating, “Whatever (help) we get will be welcome because we have been having problems in the beekeeping sector for a long time now, with the fires in the summer, the honey exportation, the fake honey competition.”

References:

1 Chile’s bee colonies devastated by floods after fires – Reuters – June 28, 2023

Featured image credit: Meteored (stillshot)

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