Backed by expert knowledge and marketing expertise, Punjab today accounts for almost half of the total production of honey in the organised sector. The widespread bee floral plants and crops act as catalysts to the Punjab farmers to take a bow for the new revolution'. Apiculture, the cultivation of bees for honey, has grown to a profitable para-agricultural for the hundreds of farmers all over Punjab. It was at the Punjab Agricultural University in Ludhiana, the seed of bee farming was sown. Today, it has become a movement. Continuing its support, the University has constituted a Progressive Bee Keepers' Association to help farmers with marketing and packaging strategies. "I am into bee keeping for the last five years and started it with ten boxes. Now, I have some 150 boxes. If you compare honey production and crop production, three boxes are equivalent to one-acre production of crop," said a farmer.
The outcome has been dramatic as apiculturists in Punjab have the confidence to compete with the best-known brands. "I am into honey production for the last 10-12 years, which I started with just US 30 dollars. Today, my annual income from honey production is above US 5,000-7,500 dollars per annum," added another farmer.
Diversification being the buzzword now, the University arranges farmers' fairs to educate farmers' of varied methods in honey production. Having over 22,000 beekeepers, Punjab produces about 42,000 tones of honey. At the fair, the aspiring farmers collect scientific knowledge about how to set up a colony, along with bee breeding and the usage of tools. With growing reliance on honey production, farmers' are keen to take on bee keeping. Dr. P K Chhuneja, Entomologist, Punjab Agricultural University, said, "Bee keeping is a very good side business as well as whole time business or for self-employment. This occupation does not require sophisticated equipment or any specific structure. We require only honeybees and colonies and large beds of bee flora, which is available in Punjab."
"Punjab being sure having assured irrigation, good flora is available and because of availability of flora the Punjab has capacity to maintain ten lakh honeybee colonies. So, still we have very good scope to increase this profession," he added. It's a jackpot, which Punjab has unearthed recently. On the outskirts of Ludhiana in Doraha is Kashmir Apiaries Exports. The company accounts for 40 per cent of the total organized sector honey production in India, owns the largest number of bee hives and procures honey from all over the country. Products of Kashmir Apiaries are exported to 35 different nations and its honey is being used in Swiss chocolates, candies and even French cosmetics. The company's latest target is the Middle-East nations, Algeria and Morocco. "This industry, I think is worth several million dollars, if you take this cross-pollination. Because one of the scientists from New Zealand, he made a very appropriate study in Nepal in which he had shown that you keep one colony of Italian bees and there benefit to the farmer in terms of pollination service would be more than two lakhs. Just one colony per annum!," said Kashmir Apiaries Exports The company's growth will only add to the farmers' benefit.
Producing over 20 varieties, India exports 25,000 tones of honey worth 50 million US dollars. And, Punjab has a major share to make India proud. By Karan Kapoor