Bee-keepers in Himachal lose business amid lockdown
Peripatetic bee-keepers are bearing the brunt of the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The bee-keepers traditionally bring their apiaries to Himachal during the flowering season of fruit trees and migrate to the plains during winter.
This year, too, the bee-keepers travelled to the hills, having acquired permission to travel during the lockdown, only to be turned away by orchardists as many believe that bees may spread the contagion.
The orchardists that did entertain them, offered them a pittance for their services, say apiarists.
Bees are essential for both the state’s honey industry and fruit orchards as they help increase pollination, as such many orchardists pay a nominal price to put up bees hives in their orchards during blooming season. However, this year only a few people availed bee-keepers’ services.
Finding no takers, Amar Singh, an apiarist, has put up his hives along the stretch between Kaharapathar and Shirthi village.
“I came to Kotkhai from Paonta Sahib with my colonies but orchard owners turned my away as they fear that the bees may spread the virus.”
HONEY PRICES PLUMMET
With the lockdown in place, bee-keepers are unable to sell honey, except locally, which has led to a drop in prices.
Beekeeper Rohit Negi, who moved from Ambala to Rohru, can’t help but ruefully compare the prices of honey with last year.
“Last year the apiaries in Punjab and Haryana paid us Rs110-120 but this year we are only able to fetch Rs 70-50 per litre,” he said.
Bee-keepers are counting the days till the lockdown is lifted so that they can sell honey to factories.
BEES VITAL FOR HIMACHAL
Himachal Pradesh is one of the biggest producers of fruits in the country with nearly 2.5 lakh hectares of land under fruit cultivation. As such beekeeping plays an important economic and ecological role in the state.
The Himachal Pradesh government has encouraged beekeeping through the Mukhya Mantri Vikas Yojana. Under the scheme, 50 beehives per beneficiary will be provided 80% assistance through kail, pine, mango and other woods of specified standard.
In each district, keepers with 300 bee colonies will be given Rs 3 lakh per breeder.
The government had announced that it will provide 50% assistance up to Rs 50,000 to 100 bee keepers.