Letters: 8 February 2015

Photo: Edward Duca
Photo: Edward Duca

Bees’ importation is bona fide project

The importation of bees into Malta by Melita Bees Ltd is far from being a clumsy, clandestine importation: my clients first started discussing this project with the competent authorities in Malta in September 2014 – first with the Department of Agriculture and subsequently with the competent minister.

The project was seen as an opportunity for professional growth of the Maltese beekeeping industry, and consequently, with the utmost transparency, on October 27 the ministry organised a meeting for beekeepers and farmers at Project House in Floriana, during which the entire project was illustrated in detail and concrete proposals of development put forward. 

The discovery of the Small Hive Beetle in Melilli (Syracuse) inevitably led to a re-evaluation, since it was no longer possible or feasible to import bees from Sicily. Indeed, it was my clients who informed the Maltese authorities about Decreto nr. 1893 in the Region of Sicily, which imposed a blockade on exportation of bees from Sicily, and it was they who provided a copy of that decree to the authorities.

On November 12, Melita Bees informed the Maltese authorities of its intention to import bees from Northern Italy and France – where there were no signs of any infection.

On December 13, 2014, in view of the open market with Sicily, Melita Bees asked the department responsible for the beekeeping industry, about the possibility of the presence of SHB in Malta, which inquiry was then forwarded to the Veterinary Services Department. On December 19, a meeting was held with that department, which provided assurances about the monitoring activities that were being set up by it and about the negative results to the investigations carried out up to that date.

Consequently the voyage to France to collect the colonies destined for Malta was undertaken on January 5 while the veterinary services were informed on January 7 of the pending arrival of the notice of importation using the TRACES system.

Upon arrival in Valletta, my clients noticed the presence of a considerable number of security personnel, but took no further notice since they had been absolutely transparent in their dealings. It was only later that they found out that this presence was due to the malicious report filed by one particular bee-keeper about the possibility of the arrival of infected bees in Malta.

The necessary investigations and controls showed that there were no signs of any infection and Melita Bees started the voyage to the final destination eager to be able to let free the bees that had now been in an enclosed space for three days.

On the way to the ferry to Gozo, it was noticed that the trucks were being followed at a distance by another vehicle – driven by Ray Sciberras, a Maltese beekeeper with whom they had previously discussed the possibility of joint cooperation. However when they tried to approach him and ask for a reason behind his behaviour, Sciberras promptly reversed his vehicle.

At Cirkewwa, Mr Sciberras was again seen in the queue and boarded the same ferry. Upon being approached, he stated that it was his right to know precisely where the colonies were going to be deposited. In Gozo, the police escort asked Sciberras to let my clients continue on their way unhindered and Melita Bees finally reached their destination, always in the presence of the police. 

The Maltese authorities were kept fully informed of the intention to import the bee colonies and with all the necessary information. Likewise, the veterinary services were planning to be present upon arrival not only because it was their duty to do so but becuse of the advance notice given by my clients. The journey to Gozo was not followed by the Police or the veterinary services but only by Sciberras. 

There was no need for the protective nets used for long haul trips because the bee colonies had been transported from France to Italy on a refrigerated vehicle furnished on purpose for long haul travel (up to 4,000km). While waiting for the Virtu Ferries catamaran, on January 9, the nuclei were transferred to two smaller vehicles, because of technical problems on the original vehicle, but primarily because my clients had discovered that Gozo Channel ferry did not offer the facility of electrical power – which was necessary in order to leave the bees in a refrigerated environment. Moreover, since some bees had come out from the nuclei on one of the two vehicles, that vehicle was provided with security netting for safety reasons.

It was also alleged that the carrier boxes were “identical to those used in Sicily”, probably because Sciberras and MaltaToday are unaware that in countries using the Dadant standard, the boxes for the development and the transport of bee nuclei are mostly those produced by Aziende Quarti e Sther, and then by Lega and Le Rouge and other small manufacturers.

One of the vehicles used for the transportation is almost new, whereas, although older, the other vehicle was perfectly suited for the 40 kms trip from Valletta to Gozo, and better suited for use in unloading the bees in the countryside in Gozo than the Mercedes Atego used in the voyage from France: that vehicle would not have been able to access the breeding places. 

Sciberras has branded my clients’ programme as a “loophole” to continue selling bee nuclei in Europe: not only is this false but it is also ridiculous. It would be idiotic for my clients to export bees infected by the SHB. Secondly Melita Bees does not intend to export its nuclei. 

Carmelo Galea, Victoria

Obo Melita Bees

Editorial note: This right of reply was edited due to printing space

The spring hunting referendum


I wish that I will be proved wrong in what I am thinking, but it is my opinion that this referendum is going to be a replica of the divorce referendum of three years or so ago. At the 2008 election none of the major political parties had divorce even mentioned. Then in 2011 a referendum was held to decide whether divorce would be introduced or not.

Politically the situation remains the same, and because of this, spring hunting will not be eliminated. I wish that I am wrong, but in Malta the situation is that electors are like a herd, following their leader even down a cliff.

A referendum is said to be a very good democratic tool, and I believe that it is, but it can be abused, as everything is. I am against not only spring hunting, but against all hunting, and I am going to vote No, to eliminate it. For me it is barbaric and cruel for a human to kill other creatures in cold blood, to satisfy a hobby or sport.

That is my reasoning, and I know that I am not going to impress anybody, but to hear Joseph Muscat and Simon Busuttil saying that they are voting to retain spring hunting is beyond me, and in my opinion this coming referendum is already being abused, because each of them has a herd following them, which unfortunately will follow.

Both of them can vote as they like, but to announce their intention in public, when the subject is not political, is wrong. 1 appeal to the Maltese people to enjoy these creatures, especially birds in the parks and countryside, enjoying their habits, colour, song and the beauty that God gave them.

Joseph Muscat, Mosta