Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Beekeeping offers new avenues to Amritsar farmers

Yudhvir Rana

AMRITSAR: Farmers of Amritsar have shown interest in beekeeping as they look for alternatives to supplement their dwindling incomes on account of losses due to vagaries of nature. Even the landless farmers are opting for moveable apiaries to boost their earnings by selling honey and wax.

Beekeeping offers new avenues to Amritsar farmersAbout 180 farmers from the district have taken up beekeeping as an additional source of income in the last two years courtesy subsidies and incentives offered by the horticulture department under the National Horticulture Mission.

According to deputy director (horticulture) Baaj Singh Sandhu the department encourages farmers to switch over to apiculture (cultivation of bees on a commercial scale for the production of honey) by giving various facilities and incentives. These include 50% subsidy on the purchase of wooden beehive boxes, Italian bee Apis mellifera and other beekeeping equipment from registered companies. Farmers of border villages, especially in Ajnala and Patti blocks, have shown keen interest in this allied activity.

A farmer has to shell out Rs 1.50 lakh for 50 wooden beehive boxes and spend another Rs 14,000 for other equipment, including honey extractors. "Those who can't afford to invest at the initial stage are provided loans from cooperative societies, which has encouraged several farmers to involve in beekeeping," said Sandhu.

On an average, one beehive yields around 20-25 kg honey in a year that fetches around Rs 80-100 per kg in the wholesale market. "We are trying to rope in Markfed to procure honey from the farmers and market it, which would lead to healthy competition and they would get better prices," said Baaj.

However, the apiarists have to keep the beehive boxes moving to be able to get nectar for bees round the year from the flowering plants, trees and crops in different seasons. "This also helps in pollination as bees move from one field or area to another. We are also encouraging the farmers with fruit trees to adopt beekeeping as an additional activity," said the deputy director.

An apiarist, Punjab Singh, from Ajnala said he finds it difficult to shift his beehive boxes, but it was imperative if he were to earn more from beekeeping. "I wish that the government would give the apiarists free transportation so that they could move between states to keep bees active for more honey yield." Owner of 80 beehives, Singh said honey extraction season is between November and May.