North Canterbury beekeeper calls for different approach to American Foulbrood after burning $2m of bee hives

A north Canterbury beekeeper is calling for a change in disease management after he was forced to destroy more than $2 million worth of product.

Springbank Honey was ordered to burn 10,000 boxes of what they believed was disease-free honey and bees, after inspectors discovered American Foulbrood Disease (AFB).

"This is just breaking us. We work until 10:30pm at night, my son is in tears, you want to watch literally everything we did go up in a bonfire," said Steven Brown, owner of Springbank Honey.

Brown told Newshub inspectors had detected spores of AFB in two beehive boxes and gave Springbank Honey seven days to burn 10,000 of them.

They contained more than $2 million worth of honey.

Brown says AFB does nothing to the honey, it only affects bee larvae. 

He should know - he's been in the industry for over 30 years and is a former apiary inspector himself.

Brown says he spends up to $50,000 every month testing his product, and he believes he's been unfairly targeted.  

"I know they weren't diseased. They had no disease in them. These were disease-free boxes that had no problems that are now burnt," he said.

Other countries rely on a vaccine to control the disease, but New Zealand instead chooses fire. 

In a statement, The Management Agency National American Foulbrood Pest Management Plan acknowledged destroying beekeeping gear is traumatic.

The disease has been in New Zealand since 1877 and subject to legislative control since the early 1900s.

AFB spores are highly resistant and can survive for over 30 years.

"We have no problem with trying to eradicate AFB in New Zealand, but the way they're going about it is wrong - absolutely wrong," said Brown.

Springbank Honey has 3000 beehives and it processes and exports up to 150 tonnes of mānuka honey around the world each month. 

The Management Agency said some countries don't accept consignments with honey contaminated with AFB spores.

But Springbank Honey won't give up, vowing to rise from the ashes.