It requires little investment, no land, and is not labour intensive. It is particularly suited as an income-generating activity for women, young people, and the landless.
ProductionThough bee rearing is quite prevalent among many farmers in the country, Bihar seems to top the list as it happens to be the largest producer of honey- producing about 21,000 metric tonnes of honey annually, and has about 20,000 bee keepers who are engaged in honey production.
“A majority of honeybee farmers in Bihar are small producers who are exploited by middle men.
“Most of them either sell the honey to a local cooperative store or to private buyers. Some of them form associations to sell the honey,” said Dr. R.K.P. Singh, Advisor, State Farmers Commission, Patna, Bihar.
But the story of Mr. Shashi Kumar in Suraheri village, Gaya district, of Bihar is quite different. Starting in a small way by taking a loan of Rs. 10,000 from a local cooperative bank, he set up about 10 bee boxes for rearing Italian bees (Apis mellifera). Today Mr. Sashi, has about 600 bee boxes and earns about Rs. 5,00,000 as net profit per year after meeting all expenses. About 20 persons are presently employed in his farm.
He has also established a honey quality testing laboratory where the produce is tested, processed and packed. His lab is popular among several other honey bee farmers for processing and packaging their product.
But why did he choose this line when livestock or poultry could have been a natural choice? Honey bee rearing does not require huge investments, and to rear these bees one does not require vast acres of land or labour.
You can simply keep the bee boxes in your neighbouring fields and gardens and as many people now know that bees are an important source for pollination and in turn increase the yield they do not object to the presence of these boxes in their lands.
“Initially my father was not receptive to the idea of me starting bee rearing as I had a permanent job in Kolkata. But the ambition to set up my own enterprise and succeed in it made me start this business,” said Mr. Shashi.
Mr. Shashi underwent training programmes in honey production at the Rajendra Agricultural University in the state and at the Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, Punjab. In honey production, one has to move the bee boxes for higher production and survival of bees in slack season to different areas. How did he manage to overcome this critical phase in his business?
“I used to move my boxes to litchi orchards of north Bihar, Patna, Nalanda, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Chattisgarh.”
Now, his honey is being marketed under the brand name M/s Shiva Agro-natural Produce Private Ltd, and reputed firms such as Dabur, Kashmir Apiary, and Kalyani Enterprisesrank among his customers.
Mr. Shashi has been conferred the ‘Honour Award’ by the Agricultural Produce Export Development Agency (APEDA) and National Bee Board. The State government conferred on him the ‘Kisan Shree’ award for his contribution to honey production and processing.
He imparts training to farmers for honey production, processing and packaging on his farm.
For more information readers can contact Mr. Shashi Kumar at Vidyarthi Bhawan, Janakpur, Buniyadganj, Gaya, 823003, Bihar and Dr. R.K.P. Singh, Advisor, State Farmers Commission, Pant Bhawan, Bailey Road, Patna, Bihar: 800001, mobile 09431245480, email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, phone: 0612- 2206169.