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Profit Making Business Idea for Farmers: Beekeeping, an Extra Income; Challenges Faced by Beekeepers

Beekeeping is an extra income for farmers. It generates a lot of profits. However, there are a few challenges that are faced by beekeepers penned by Namrata Khanna, Director, India Honey Alliance.

KJ Staff
Representational image
Representational image

India is one of the major honey-exporting countries. The major markets to which India exports honey include the USA, UK, Japan, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, etc. India ranks 8th in the world for honey production and 9th for honey export.

The majority of the Indian beekeepers involved in beekeeping are predominantly extracting raw honey from the bee colonies maintained by them. Only a few beekeepers are extracting by-products like wax and pollen. The by-products are highly sellable and fetch higher prices to the sellers.

Beekeeping is a highly sustainable, environmentally sound activity that involves an amalgamation of forestry, social forestry, and Agricultural subsidiary activity as it provides economic, nutritional, and ecological balance along with providing employment and income to beekeepers. In India, the potential for beekeeping is huge and the country can further turn into a major honey exporting nation.    

Beekeeping can be highly beneficial for farmers as it leads to the production of multiple products such as honey, beeswax, queen and bee colonies, and bi-products like pollen, royal jelly, bee venom, and propolis used in cosmetics and medicine. The profession of beekeeping needs a minimal amount of initial capital and land, along with less time. Beekeeping has the potential to offer direct employment to lakhs of people including tribal and unemployed youth and farmers. Beekeeping plays a significant role in the livelihoods of the rural population in four ways:

  1. Beekeeping is an income-generating activity
  2. Honey and other products are highly valuable and are used as food, medicine, and cosmetics.
  3. Beekeeping supports agricultural activities through cross-pollination and also increases the crop yield
  4. Beekeeping supports forest conservation and provides additional income to farmers/ tribal population etc.

However, there are many challenges as well when it comes to beekeeping. Bee colony decline, absconding and swarming, honeybee pests, and predators are some significant challenges faced by beekeepers. Finding a suitable terrain for his apiary and sufficient and diverse forage, the provision of fresh water, poisoning of bees, natural enemies of the bees, theft, and vandalism by humans, climate change hazards like flooding and droughts, and veld fires are seen as the biggest challenges for the beekeepers.

Another major challenge faced by the beekeepers is sugar adulterants which are damaging the beekeeping business in India and across the world. The extensive usage of harmful sugar syrup has become a typical adulterant in honey to spike its quantity. This in turn is giving great profits to big commercial brands but is causing higher losses to the beekeepers selling raw honey. The beekeepers are not getting the right price for their raw honey harvest.

Global warming, increasing pollution, disease, and pests that affect honey bees are also bringing losses to beekeepers. Honey bees can also be affected by various pests and diseases such as mites, different viruses, microsporidia, bacterial infections, and fungi which further leads to infectious diseases in bees due to which they manifest significant weakness or even death.

Inadequate infrastructure and lack of training for beekeepers are also some vital challenges in this industry. Beekeepers should follow good beekeeping practices which is highly important for sustainable apiculture. Continuous training activities and knowledge-sharing on beekeeping will enable the beekeepers to tackle the challenges of beekeeping along with strengthening the honey value chain.

Providing adequate infrastructure and training to beekeepers will educate the beekeepers, further making the beekeeping sector more resilient to shock, seasonality, and stressors. This elevates income-generating opportunities for beekeepers without exacerbating environmental degradation, enhancing crop production, and further becoming more efficient in providing profitable bee products and services.  

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