Beekeepers in Rajasthan in the honey trap of high costs and low prices

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The beekeepers of the Hanumangarh district of Rajasthan are as busy as one bee yourself. Unfortunately, they don’t get a fair price for the hard work they put in. Over the years, production costs have skyrocketed, but honey prices have not risen proportionally, putting about 1,500 beekeepers in the district in trouble.

Considering the cost of hives, labour, workers’ food and housing, and transportation, the production cost of one kg of honey is Rs 125. Companies, on the other hand, buy the products for Rs 60-70 per kg, which is at least Rs 10 less than the purchase price which is almost two was provided decades ago!

The battle does not end with these large differences in input and procurement costs. The drop in honey production also hurts beekeepers. “Twenty-five years ago, a colony produced 50 to 60 kg of honey in the mustard growing season (October to March). Increased use of pesticides and fertilizers has reduced this to 15 kg,” says Jaspreet from Punjab. Singh, who supplies bee colonies to beekeepers in Hanumangarh.

“Bees do not visit flowers of crops that have been sprayed with pesticides or they die. This has affected pollination. There is also a new concern that genetically modified plants may have an adverse effect on pollinators,” he added.

honey trap

Among the many problems, the addition of artificial colors and sugars to honey is a major concern for beekeepers. “The authorities go hand in hand with purchasing companies. It keeps changing standards, which encourages companies to sell adulterated honey instead of buying pure products from us. Some parameters were diluted unnecessarily, without any explanation,” Prakash Singh Badala resident of Nohar in Hanumangarh and chairman of the northern Rajasthan unit of the Rashtriya Beekeepers Sangharsh Samiti, told 101Reporters.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has defined honey as a natural sweet substance produced by bees through the pollination of plants or by separating living parts of plants or by insects sucking on living plants. The bee collects, transforms, dries it out and stores it, matures and ripens it in the hive.

Out of greed, several companies play with the health of unsuspecting consumers by selling honey mixed with corn and rice syrup. A survey conducted by the Delhi-based Center for Science and Environment (CSE) in 2020 found that 10 of the 13 major brands sold honey with sugar syrup.

“In 1994, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India had set the standard for the number of pollen and plant elements in honey at 50,000 per gram, but it was changed to 25,000 per gram in 2018. A year later, it was diluted to 5,000 per gram. ” grams. The government has also abolished the quality control test for honey,” Badal explains.

At the same time, pollen counts are not considered a measure of honey quality worldwide. Consequently, determining adulteration by checking pollen counts has been a controversy. This is compounded by the fact that the pollen count varies in different types of honey. For example, it may be different in mustard, lychee or honey obtained from a single flower or several flowers.

Banks stab them

Rajasthan Khadi and Village Industries Board has no special scheme for beekeepers but receives grants from the Khadi and Village Industries Commission through the state government. While banks make loans to beekeepers, the board steps in by offering grants to the borrower using the grant from the Central Commission. The subsidy part differs for Scheduled Castes and Tribes, Other Backward Classes and the general category. However, the subsidy ceiling is 35 percent of the loan amount.

Harjeet Singh of Araiyanwali Dhani explained how banks let him down. “My brother Gurmeet Singh and I applied for a loan from the Khadi board in 2019. The board approved Rs 8 lakh each in our name and sent the proposal to ICICI Bank, which rejected it after a lengthy process. If the bank if we had endured our loan, we could have expanded our beekeeping business and benefited from the grant.”

Kuldeep Saharan from Ranjitpura had a similar experience. “The board approved Rs 4 lakh in my name, but the State Bank of India has not disbursed the money. No bank gives money to beekeepers,” he complained.

Madan Lal Swami, Divisional Officer, Rajasthan Khadi and Village Industries Board, Bikaner, confirmed the allegation and told 101Reporters that banks were not cooperating. He said that they have raised the issue in several meetings and seminars, but the attitude of the banks has remained the same.

“From 2018 to date, 58 beekeepers have applied for loans. We rejected 21 applications at the department level due to various shortcomings, but approved 35 and asked different banks to provide loans. Yet only four beekeepers got the money. The remaining two applications are under treatment with us.”

On contact, Raj KumarChief District Manager Hanumangarh told 101Reporters that banks are not taking a negative approach under any circumstances. “It is quite possible that banks have rejected several applications because they are not sure that the borrower will be able to repay the amount. They just want to make sure that the money will be repaid. At the same time, there may be instances where the banks have given loans to all applicants. It is purely based on the merits of each case,” he said.

Rajasthan Horticulture Department also has a provision to arrange a 40 percent grant from the National Horticulture Mission for the supply of bee colonies and hives. In fiscal year 2022-2023, the department planned to distribute 2,850 colonies and boxes in Hanumangarh district. Similarly, the neighboring Sri Ganganagar district would get 7,550 colonies and boxes each.

Horticultural officer Rajendra Nain told 101Reporters that a tender was put out last year, but the contract was not signed with any of the bidders. A new tender was issued two months ago.

Stalled by several issues, the beekeepers of Hanumangarh district staged a protest outside the Collectorate in February and submitted a memorandum of demands including the announcement of a minimum support price of Rs 150 per kg of honey.

They sought recognition of honeybees as inputs to agriculture and landless beekeepers as farmers, as recommended by the Bibek Debroy-led Beekeeping Development Committee under the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council. “The Debroy Commission had recommended planting bee-friendly flora in appropriate places and employing women’s self-help groups to maintain it,” Badal said.

The commission’s report released on June 26, 2019 discussed the state government’s role in educating beekeepers, in addition to promoting infrastructure at the national and regional levels for the collection, processing, marketing and promotion of honey and related products Products. There were suggestions to simplify procedures and specify clear standards to facilitate exports.

“We would have benefited if the committee’s recommendations had been implemented, but it has been shelved for almost four years,” he added.

The beekeepers also wanted to set up a laboratory that met international standards to check the purity of honey and prevent adulteration. They want the government to ban genetically modified crops and the indiscriminate use of pesticides in agriculture. They believe farmers will benefit from honey being included in the midday meal program and made available in government stores.

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