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Beekeeping: Vital Input For Sustainable Agriculture

Beekeeping is an agro-based activity which is being undertaken by farmers / landless labours in rural area as an integrated farming practice.Beekeeping is an agro-based activity which is being undertaken by farmers / landless labours in rural area as an integrated farming practice. Beekeeping supplements income and employment generation and nutritional intake of rural population. Though the honeybees are best known for the honey they produce, their economic role in nature is to pollinate hundreds and thousands of flowering plants and assure setting of seed or fruit. Honeybees have been offering services to the society through ensured pollination in cross-pollinated crops as well as by providing honey and a variety of beehive products. Honey Bees have vital role in sustaining plants bio-diversity resulting in environmental stability. Beekeeping is one of the thrust areas and flagship programmes of Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare.

Value of additional yield from pollination services by honeybees alone is about 15-20 times more than the value of all hive products put together. Honey bee pollination also improves the quality of produce.

Initiatives / Programmes of Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare as well as others

Beekeeping has been included as an activity for promoting cross pollination of Horticultural Crops under National Horticulture Mission since May, 2005, which has been merged in Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH). MIDH has been in implementation in all parts of the country.  Under MIDH, among others, assistance for promoting Scientific Beekeeping under the component of ‘Pollination Support through Beekeeping’ is available and being implemented by the State Departments of Horticulture/Agriculture in the field. Khadi and Village Industries Commission, Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, State Khadi Board etc. are also implementing beekeeping schemes.

National Bee Board (NBB) and its Role

The main objective of NBB is overall development of beekeeping by promoting scientific beekeeping in the country to increase the productivity of crops through pollination support and production of honey and other beehive products to increase the income of farmers / beekeepers. NBB is one of the National Level Agencies (NLAs) under MIDH.

Presently, the main thrust of NBB is setting up of Integrated Beekeeping Development Centres (IBDCs) / Centres of Excellence (CoEs) on beekeeping, at least one in each State. In these centres (IBDCs), requisite infrastructural facilities for implementing end to end approach for development of scientific beekeeping in the country may be made available at one place. Centres will help the beekeepers / farmers of the area in adopting scientific beekeeping and encourage / promote scientific beekeeping in integrated manner in the Country. 3 IBDCs have been commissioned / approved during 2015-16 and 7 are in process.

Beekeeping Industry in India

Presently, about 30 lakhs bee colonies in India are producing 94500 metric tonnes of Honey (2016-17 estimated) including honey from wild honey bees and providing employment to about three lakh persons. India is one of the honey exporting countries. The major markets for Indian honey are Germany, USA, UK, Japan, France, Italy, Spain etc.

World scenario of beekeeping

Honey is the precious natural health product which is produced throughout the world. A total quantity of 14-15 lakh metric ton is produced world over. There are 15 countries in the world which produce 90% of the total production. Major honey producing countries are China, USA, Mexico, Argentina, Ukraine, Turkey, Russia and India.

Beekeeping as an Enterprise, source of Livelihood and benefits

Beekeeping industry is source of livelihood for rural poors / tribals / forest based population. Benefits of beekeeping are summarized as under:-

Ø  Unemployed youth can start this business with minimal funds (?1.00 to 2.00 lakhs);
Ø  Generates 3.75 lakhs mandays to maintain 10,000 Bee colonies in Bee hives;
Ø  Proper utilization of natural resources – nector and pollen otherwise go waste;
Ø  Different sectors and trades benefit from a strong beekeeping industry;
Ø  Beekeeping encourages ecological awareness;
Ø  Beekeeping helps in increasing National income;
Ø  Income from 100 Bee colonies is around ?2.50-3.00 lakhs per annum;
Ø  May help in doubling farmers income by supplementing / complimenting agriculture / horticulture;
Ø  Export of honey / beehive products attracts foreign exchange;
Ø  It helps in rural development and promotes small village industry;
Ø  Beekeeping is benign: Beekeeping generates income without destroying habitat;
Ø  Encouraging beekeeping encourages biodiversity.

Hence, beekeeping may be adopted as an enterprise by anyone after getting training on the subject.

Potential and Opportunities

India has vast potential for Beekeeping. The diversity in flora and fauna provides more opportunities for the development of beekeeping industry. The National Commission on Agriculture had visualized the need for deploying about 150 million Bee colonies for pollinating 12 major agricultural crops in the country.  Presently, 200 million Bee colonies are required for enhancing their yield which will provide employment to 215 lakh persons and produce 10 million tonnes of honey and increase in crop production.

Main issues to be addressed are strengthening of National Bee Board, setting up of State Bee Boards / Missions / IBDCs; production of quality germplasm and nucleus stock of honey bees; indiscriminate use of pesticides in crops; quality standards for honey and other beehive products by BIS / FSSAI, etc.; disease diagnostic labs and  bee products quality analysis labs;  exemptions from various taxes (GST) for Beekeeping / beekeepers; treating beekeepers as farmers in all respects for compensation, etc. in the event of damage of bee colonies and accidental insurance coverage on subsidized rates, insurance of bee colonies on subsidized rates, etc.

(Author is an Executive Director, National Bee Board, Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, M/o Agriculture and Farmers Welfare)

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