In 2016, Waseem Rafiq Bhat (32) left a multi-national company where he worked as a supervisor and started breeding bees for honey in his quaint Aglar Zainpora village, some 20 km from south Kashmir’s Shopian town.
Bhat began with a few dozen beehives and today his bee yard is dotted with at least 11, 00 wooden boxes packed with bees.
“Initially I purchased over 50 beehives from Rajasthan, which produced around 200 kgs of honey, spelling way good profits.”
Encouraged by the profitability of the apiculture business, Bhat sought guidance from the Department of Agriculture to expand his newly minted venture.
“Apart from the technical guidance, the department also provided me with various high-end equipment used in beekeeping”, he said.
Bhat said that the department helped him procure equipment, which included honey extractor, strainer and wax melter on 40 to 50 per cent subsidy.
Bhat’s beekeeping initiative coincided with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for sweet revolution in 2016 to promote beekeeping and allied activities. The government allocated Rs 500 crore under the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan scheme for the promotion of apiculture.
“There are various schemes available with the government for beekeeping”, said Bhat, adding that it requires a small investment to start the business.
In December 2016, Bhat also set up apiaries in Jammu, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
“I move to these places along with the hives in different seasons of the year”, Bhat said.
According to Bhat, he extracts at least 40 to 45 kgs of honey from each hive in a year.
“The extractions took place at least 5 to 6 times in a year”, said Bhat.
Bhat sells per kg of honey for Rs 200 to Rs 700 depending on the variety of honey.
“We largely produce four varieties of honey—acacia, mustard and multi-floral and coriander”, said Bhat.
Over the last few years, Bhat has been able to build a strong consumer base and people from different parts of the Valley purchase honey from him.
“Every day close to a dozen consumers show up at my residence to purchase the produce”, he said.
Bhat usually sells his harvest to traders and first-rate honey companies, who export it to other countries.
He said that he was toying with the idea of setting up a filter plant and applying for export business.
“I have also, though at a small scale, started the bottling process”, said Bhat.
In less than five years into the apiculture business, Bhat has not only become financially independent but also generated jobs for youth in his village.
“I’m providing employment to 8 -10 youth from my village and pay them good emoluments”, he said.
What is beekeeping?
Beekeeping (or apiculture) is the maintenance of bee colonies, commonly in man-made hives, by humans. Most such bees are honey bees in the genus Apis, but other honey-producing bees such as Melipona stingless bees are also kept. A beekeeper (or apiarist) keeps bees to collect their honey and other products that the hive produces (including beeswax, propolis, flower pollen, bee pollen, and royal jelly), to pollinate crops, or to produce bees for sale to other beekeepers. A location where bees are kept is called an apiary or “bee yard”.
Jammu and Kashmir constitute one of the most important bee-keeping zones in India. The three essential principles for the success of an industry viz., availability of raw material, skilled labour and the consumer demand of the product are fully met within the Union Territory.
Kashmir particularly is known for its floral gaieties where numerous varieties are cultivated and wild plants bloom from early spring till late fall. This provides sufficient raw material (nectar and pollen) to the honey bees, for the production of honey and beeswax for commercial purposes. This industry is of considerable national importance. It provides gainful employment to the thousands of rural families and can provide extra income to unemployed youth. It does not compete with agriculture but is complementary to it. It does not require costly equipment tools. Tools used in this industry are fabricated locally and are within the reach of the common man with little financial support.
The technology required for its development is sufficiently available locally, however, it needs regular up-gradation to keep pace with the latest innovations. Honey produced in Kashmir has a ready market because of its good quality and medicinal value. Bee’s wax which is used in the manufacture of more than 300 items is in high demand.