Inclement weather stings Punjab apiarists
The unseasonal prolonged wet season in Punjab has caused widespread damage to the flora in the wild, the key source of nectar for honeybees
Inclement weather over the past fortnight has dashed the hopes of Punjab apiarists. The unseasonal prolonged wet season has caused widespread damage to the flora in the wild, the key source of nectar for honeybees.
Stakeholders say it is the second cycle of honey harvest in the past four months when the beekeepers have suffered heavy losses.
According to Progressive Beekeepers’ Association president Jatinder Sohi, every year from March 20 to April 8, beekeepers take bee boxes to lower Shivalik mountain ranges where bees collect nectar from eucalyptus, sheesham or rosewood, curry leaf plants and a wide range of other wildflowers in Rupnagar, Pathankot and adjoining areas in Himachal Pradesh.
“Due to rain and hailstorm, natural nectar collection zone is ravaged. The short window of 15-20 days was crucial for beekeepers to get multi-flora honey, but frequent downpour damaged flowers and affected nectar collection,” said Sohi.
Punjab’s estimated annual honey production is around 14,000-20,000 tonnes and mostly marginal farmers or landless entrepreneurs are engaged in apiculture.
Unlike the honey variety produced from mustard flowers, natural honey produced from multi-flora does not crystallise and is thus called liquid honey. While mustard honey is an export-oriented produce, the other variety is largely demanded in the Indian market.
“Due to a misnomer that crystallised honey is adulterated, mustard honey is not much in demand in India. The Prime Minister and Punjab chief minister should come forward to promote mustard honey as a healthy alternative to sugar,” said Sohi.
Jagtar Singh, an apiarist from Kanjhala village of Sangrur for the past 22 years, said, “A beekeeper easily harvests 7-10 kg of liquid honey from a bee box, but this time, the yield is unlikely to be more than 2 kg.”
One kg of honey costs about ₹100 and facing losses in two consecutive honey harvest seasons have hit the apiarists hard, he said.
“Prior to the current season, export-oriented mustard honey business during the winter season was also dismal. We had a good harvest, but prices dropped drastically to ₹70 per kg against ₹150 kg past year due to less demand from the US,” he said.
Narpinder Dhaliwal, national-awardee beekeeper from Moga, said like wheat and mustard growers, apiarists also suffered due to rough weather, but the state government did not devise a policy to compensate beekeepers.
“Beekeepers must be provided with cold stores at nominal charges for storage of honey. It will help them keep the produce safe in the warehouses till the prices improve,” said Dhaliwal.