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9 February, 2018 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 9 February, 2018 02:01:48 AM
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Apiculture

By Bipul K Debnath
Apiculture

Honey collection by beekeepers has been going on in full swing near mustard fields across the country this winter season. Apiculture, or beekeeping for honey cultivation, can play an important role in conserving our environment and developing our economy. Hive products like pure honey is a traditional remedy for many ailments, and it is also used to make delicious sweet and savoury dishes. In addition, beeswax made from honeycomb is a major ingredient in various products, including cosmetics and candles. Beekeeping can help unemployed or landless villagers become self-reliant. It can also be a profitable export business, as we can earn foreign currency by selling raw honey to countries like India and Japan.

Abdul Mannan, who comes from Satkhira, has set up several wooden bee boxes, or artificial hives, near mustard fields in Ghior upazila of Manikganj district. “Our country has huge potential for beekeeping as we have sufficient flower gardens, trees and fields of different crops that have flowers. Bees are a kind of small, industrious and helpful insects. Like every year, we have come here to collect honey from mustard flowers. We have installed 400 honey bee boxes near different fields. We expect to collect 450 kg of honey from our four bee yards (apiaries) every week. After completing honey collection here, we will move to the coriander fields in Madaripur and Gopalganj districts. Later on, we will go to the Sundarbans,” the 48-year-old beekeeper told this correspondent over telephone recently.

Khondaker Aminuzzaman, project director of 'Development of Beekeeping Through Modern Technology Project' of Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) said, “We have started beekeeping using modern technology. The number of participants is increasing in our training programme. Some 6,000 beekeepers (apiarists) are taking training under the project. BSCIC is providing short-term loans to our trained beekeepers for buying equipment. We hope to establish apiculture as an industry. Utilising the natural environment of our country, it is possible to produce more than 100,000 (one lakh) tons of honey every year.”

To promote the sale of locally produced honey, the project arranges annual fairs. “We arrange honey fairs at the BSCIC head office at Motijheel in the capital in May every year where people come to buy different types of honey,” the project director said.

About the BSCIC initiative to develop our honey business, Aminuzzaman said, “There is great potential to make apiculture, or honey cultivation, a profitable industry. People can take it up to become self-reliant. So, we are trying to create new entrepreneurs in this sector. Besides, we are trying our best to expand the export market for our local honey. We are trying to fulfill some criteria to start exportingto European countries.”

Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development (BARD) in Comilla has contributed a lot to apiculture in this country. According to 1960 and 1961 annual reports of BARD, Akhtar Hameed Khan was the initiator of apiculture in Bangladesh, said Kamrul Ahsan, director (administration), BARD.

Kazi Monir Hosen is an entrepreneur who started beekeeping out of personal interest. The 33-year-old beekeeper from Gazipur said, “After seeing apiculture at my teacher’s house in 2005, I became inspired to start my own honey business. Now I have 300 honey bee boxes installed near mustard fields at Mirzapur upazila in Tangail. From the first week of December, I have started collecting honey. This year, we are getting about 170 kilogrammes of honey every week. Like other commercial beekeepers of our country, I use apis mellifera (European honey bee) for my honey production. We have no packaging machine. So we sell the raw honey. The wholesale price of our raw honey is Tk 170 per kg.”

Abdus Sattar, 43, is a beekeeper from Tangail who has been cultivating honey for 25 years. “I started producing honey from my schooldays. I heard a programme on the radio about apiculture in Khulna. At that time, I learned about producing honey with apis cerana indica (Asiatic honey bee). I collected some bees from our local forest and started honey culture with it. Initially, I was disappointed as the honey production was not good with that type of bee. Later on, I met a trainer from Proshika, a development organisation, in 1991. I got training from him and came to know about the commercial honey bee, apis mallifera. I paid Tk 50,000 to buy bees from Jessore. But then everyone made negative remarks, as they thought there was no point in buying bees for such a huge amount of money. After two years, I started making profit. From then on, I have been making honey. I have trained many people and they, too, have become beekeepers. I have 150 hives and the production is good now.”

Gourango Sutradhar, 55, trades in beekeeping equipment, alongside cultivating honey. “After taking training from the BSCIC honey project in 1977, I started dealing in equipment used in apiculture. I sell honey bee box for Tk 800 each, face veil (mesh) for Tk 400, protective gloves for Tk 150, and a purifying machine for Tk 12,000,” the trader and beekeeper from Gazipur said. “In 2004, I started producing honey commercially. Now, we are collecting honey at Mirzapur in Tangail. I have 70 honey boxes and I get 80 kg honey per week."

Regarding the state of our apiculture business, Ebadullah Afzal, owner of Honey Bangladesh and president of Bangladesh Beekeepers' Foundation, said, “There are 2,500 commercial beekeepers in our country. We produced 6,000 metric tons of honey last year and honey production is still going on this year. The annual production could be increased through proper planning and use of modern methods. We export honey to India and Japan. We use beeswax to make carbon fibre sheets that are used in beekeeping.”

“Loan facilities for beekeepers should be increased. There are two types of bees for commercial beekeeping. The species are apis mallifera and apis cerana. We use apis mallifera because of their huge production capability. But we have been using them for a long time and thus, their productivity has been reduced. A modern bee research institute is highly needed to increase breeding of bees and to train beekeepers on how to collect raw bee pollen and royal jelly. These products have a huge demand abroad and can be lucrative export items,”Afzal said.

Although beekeeping near fields aids crop production, local farmers are often ignorant of the fact, and see bees as pests. “Honey bees help with the pollination of flowers of nearby crops to a great extent. About 15 to 20 percent of crop production can be boosted by them. But we feel sad when we see our beekeepers facing opposition from the local farmers while installing their bee boxes near their fields. The farmers do not know about the usefulness of honey bees for their crops. So, the relevant authorities should take the initiative to make farmers see the positive side of beekeeping," Afzal added.

In response to Afzal's claim, Aminuzzaman, the BSCIC project director, said: “We have already informed the local administration and police to stop any sort of untoward incident involving our beekeepers. Besides, we are arranging regular grassroots training programmes to tackle this, too.”

Nijam Uddin, who provides training on apiculture, started beekeeping in 2000. The 46-year-old beekeeper from Comilla said, “At present, we have five bee boxes. Many people come to me for training on apiculture. The way of collecting honey is changing day by day. Now we are using effective modern techniques.”

Compared to the local demand for honey, there is sufficient production in the country now. But the beekeepers are facing problem exporting honey. According to Nijam Uddin, proper packaging system is not available in our country. For this reason, our beekeepers do not get proper price for their product.

“Though honey production is profitable, there are few popular brands that are doing honey processing work in our country. Among them, AP, a honey brand of Ayurvedia Pharmacy, has been processing honey for a long time. We do not have high-tech processing plants. That is why we are facing problems while exporting our honey. We hope the agriculture ministry and BSCIC will take necessary steps soon to market the honey we produce and make it an export item,” Nijam Uddin added.

Photos: Nazmul Islam, Courtesy.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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