One of the most talked-about methods of alleviating farm concerns is diversification of Indian agriculture. Bee-keeping had gained immense popularity in areas like Bharatpur, Rajasthan with some 3,000 farmers engaged in apiculture.
Good prices from bee-keeping help them in augmenting their incomes, with around 70 per cent of their incomes coming from apiculture and only 30 per cent from agriculture.
However, global overproduction in the recent past has hurt the prospects of the bee-keepers. While in 2015, honey fetched Rs. 130/ kg, the prices have gone down to Rs. 65-70/ kg. Anything below Rs. 100/ kg doesn’t translate into profits for the bee-keepers as the cost of the bees, maintaining the box and the frames, labour and transportation itself goes upto Rs. 40-50/ kg.
Modi government has been making all possible efforts to rejuvenate apiculture in order to ensure that bee-keeping is made a profitable business that can lead to diversification of farming in India. Last year, it was reported that the government was considering giving the status of farmers to landless bee-keepers while recognising honeybees as inputs to agriculture and diversifying the basket of beekeeping products as the Modi government aims to double farmers’ incomes by the year 2022.
Bee-keeping is crucial to India not only because it will help in augmenting farm distress by creating an alternate source of income but also because it has significant environmental benefits, such as protecting fragile soils from erosion and land spillage, supporting natural watershed management and also protecting forest biodiversity.
This is the reason why the Modi government is looking to push apiculture within India. Agriculture employs 50 per cent population but contributes only 15 per cent to the Indian economy. This is the reason why PM Modi has time and again reiterated the importance of a “sweet [honey] revolution”, which according to him has the potential to transform farmers’ lives. Since 2017, government’s Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) has helped several farmers by distributing 70,000 beehive boxes across the country. Farmers have also been provided training in the field of apiculture in order to promote bee-keeping among them.
The government is already making efforts at popularising apiculture amongst the farmers. What the government needs to manage is the slipping prices on account of global overproduction. Boosting domestic demand can be a remedy to the falling prices of honey which made bee-keeping less profitable in the first place. Lupin Human Welfare & Research Foundation has suggested that honey should be supplied with meals on airlines, railways and among the defence forces. The Modi government seems to be now moving in the direction of boosting domestic demand.
In fact, Union minister Nitin Gadkari has said that he would request airlines to provide honey sachets as a sweetener while serving tea/ coffee to passengers in flights. He was speaking at a Central Bee Research and Training Institute (CBRTI). The Union Minister for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, said, “Normally, one spoon of honey is equal to three spoons of sugar. Currently, refined sugar sachets are provided on board to passengers, so we are trying if we can provide honey sachets or honey cubes in flights and hotels.” He added, “I am going to call Air India, IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir and also chairperson of the Khadi Gramodyog Commission, and request them to make both the choices available in flights.”
Apiculture is crucial to the ambitions of augmenting farmers’ income and alleviating agrarian concerns in India. Modi government has therefore taken the right step at the right time by planning to introduce honey in flights so that domestic demand for honey is boosted, and the adverse effect of global overproduction is nullified.