Prime Minister Narendra Modi has time to time pitched for a sweet revolution in India and asked cooperatives to venture into new business areas like beekeeping to boost the rural economy. PM Modi has said that this would also help farmers double their income. It is not only honey but there is a big market for beewax world over, the Prime Minister had said. Prompted by this, a beekeeping training programme was inaugurated at the Rashtrapati Bhavan earlier this year. The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) would install 500 bee boxes in phases on the Bhavan premises, an official was quoted as saying by PTI. PM Modi had observed that agriculture was not about growing wheat and rice.
Here is how the sweet revolution is taking place
1. Presently it is estimated that [there are] 25 lakh bee colonies, 2.5 lakh beekeepers and wild honey collectors [who] harvest around 56,579 MT of honey…, valued [at] Rs 476.04 crore”, according to the website of the Khadi & Village Industries Commission (KVIC).
2. The sector was organised in 1953, and KVIC subsequently established a Directorate of Beekeeping in Mumbai and the Central Bee Research and Training Institute in Pune, which started “beekeeping in [a] modern and scientific way throughout the country”. Field observation stations and zonal beekeeping extension centres (now state beekeeping extension centres) were established in states with beekeeping potential.
3. Bees are essentially pollinators who play the crucial role of transferring pollen from male to female parts of plants to help in fertilisation. The government recognises four species of honeybees that are available and/or cultivated in India: Apis dorsata, Apis cerana, Apis florea and Apis mellifera. The first three are indigenous species, the last was introduced in 1987.
But there are some issues which still need to be addressed
1.Professor Shantanu Jha of the Department of Agricultural Entomology at Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya in Nadia, West Bengal, said only 30%-40% of the honey is harvested, while the rest simply dries up. “There is huge variation at the national level. 70% honey is not harvested mostly because of a lack of awareness. Beekeepers say they are harassed by farmers who believe that bees sucking out nectar causes plants to fade,” Prof Jha said.
2. Apiarists, he said, had a “miserable life”. “In Bengal, there is no support system. Beekeepers make about Rs 50 per kg of honey because people often say the honey is not of good quality. You will soon see beekeepers leaving the profession if no support system is evolved. Beekeepers are not organised, and even cooperatives are controlled by big business people,” Prof Jha said.
3. There are 2 lakh beekeepers and 18 lakh colonies of bees in India, who produce 75,000 to 80,000 metric tonnes of honey per annum. This is a minuscule fraction of India’s potential to maintain at least 200 million bee colonies, which could provide employment to 215 lakh people, according to IE report
However, with PM Modi indicating a stronger government push towards helping the industry, we can only hope India will witness this sweet revolution.