Srinagar, Dec 31: With a long and storied history of beekeeping and honey production, Jammu and Kashmir is now poised to witness a ‘Sweet Revolution’ through sincere efforts of the administration towards that end.
Through the apiculture development schemes of the current dispensation in the Union Territory, beekeepers are processing crude honey in government facilities for free. For standardisation, small-time keepers are also offered the service of honey testing and logo stamping for better returns in the market. These processing units are a one-stop-solution to reducing the moisture of honey, filter, and bottle it.
To increase their earnings manifold, new-age agripreneurs are making value additions to honey by making products such as soaps, candles, cosmetics, Ayurvedic medicines, etc. which are in high demand in the Indian market. As a result, consumers have been switching to non-toxic, organic products, free from health hazards, presenting a big opportunity for the youth to start a profitable venture.
Considering the growing popularity of White Honey from Ramban, the Apiculture department is working to promote the autumn produce of the district under the ‘One District, One Product’ scheme. It is distinct not only in its colour and taste but also in its medicinal properties.
Beekeeping, which requires less land and almost zero setup cost, is tipped to go a long way in helping realise Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to double the farmers’ income if farmers and landowners embrace this as a non-competitive and off-the-farm activity. The climatic condition of J&K allows plenty of flora throughout the year, making it the best destination for this activity.
Under India’s National Beekeeping and Honey Mission (NBHM), beneficiaries are being given bee boxes, live bee colonies, tool kits and training to establish themselves. The Agriculture department lends a hand in supporting uneducated farmers. These farmers further teach others as a result of which the bee colonies keep multiplying.
So far, 2,000 colonies have been provided to new beekeepers in the last two years at a 40 per cent subsidy in Kulgam district alone. With appropriate scientific interventions, Kulgam is generating 480 quintals of honey every year with a turnover of Rs 3 crore.
In December 2022, a local proposed to obtain the GI tag for Sulai Honey of Ramban district. Sulai Honey (also known as VanaTulsi Honey) holds the distinction of being the world’s best honey. It was once gifted to the British queen during an official visit. Rightly so, the GI tag is now in the pipeline.
Some bee hotspots such as Bhalla and Sarthal around Bhaderwah town in the Doda district, which are abundant in flowering plants, are being used to peddle Honeybee Tourism. Since the beekeeping industry requires a green forest area and a large space dedicated to flowers, the industry set-up is mostly located in untouched, naturally abundant regions. The beekeeping season starts in April.
To promote the export of honey, the Agriculture department is also working with apiarists in the Union Territory to standardise their produce. It is believed that maintaining homogeneous varieties of honey will help develop the Kashmir Brand and drive honey export.
The Kashmir Brand already is already an established global name and the only challenge is to bring all beekeepers under one community and have an advisory board draw business goals for them.
Under the Scheme of the Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries (SFURTI), beekeeping clusters are being established in the Jammu division at the cost of Rs 4.08 crore. The scheme will be operational before April 2023 and will benefit 600 beekeepers associated with it.
In the next five years, the government will be spending Rs 5,013 crores under the newly approved Holistic Development of Agriculture and Allied Sectors (HDAS) scheme, which will secure farmers’ prosperity and livelihood security in Jammu and Kashmir.
There are 29 projects under this scheme curated by agriculture scientists to double farmers’ income, boost exports, and make all farming and related sectors sustainable and commercially viable. It is expected to create employment opportunities for 2.8 lakh youth in 19,000 enterprises. Apart from that 2.5 lakhs, people will benefit from skill training in agri-enterprises including beekeeping.
Jammu and Kashmir can sustain more than 6 lakh bee colonies. With the GI tag for honey and the government’s futuristic schemes in place, the UT will soon witness its first ‘Sweet Revolution’.