A sweet business on the rise

K. A. Martin

KOCHI: Beekeepers are on the rise as never before. From a hobby. it has turned into a major business across the State employing thousands of people and providing an additional means of income to a large number of farmers while others have taken up beekeeping as a vocation on its own right.

In Ernakulam, like in most other districts in the State, the Khadi and Village Industries Boards and Horticorp have helped apiarists in a big way. The Kerala State Khadi and Village Industries Board has set up a honey- processing plant at Neryamangalam, about 40 kms from Kochi, about three years ago. Honey is collected, tested, processed and Agmark-certified to be sold through the Khadi Board outlets in the State. Currently, the Board has about 15,000 kgs of raw honey in stock, said an official of the Board on Wednesday.

The official said that the Board sold between 500kgs and 600 kgs of honey per month through its outlets. The annual honey business for the Board is in the range of six to eight tonnes and even North Indian markets source honey from the Board.

One of the major outlets for the Board is the annual international trade fare in Delhi where about 1,500 kgs of honey is sold.

Kerala State Horticulture Products Development Corporation has ventured into marketing honey doing a forward integration of a Union Government-backed programme on development of beekeeping for improving crop productivity. The Amruth brand of honey has taken off well in the market, said an official of Horticorp that was identified as the State-designated agency for the beekeeping programme. Horticorp has set up a honey- processing and packing plant at Mavelikkara from which it is bringing out the Amruth brand.

Since the programme was started by Horticorp during 1998-99, a total of 26,000 bee colonies have been distributed by the Corporation. By a rough estimate, each of these units produces 10 kgs of honey per season.