Karnataka could be on the cusp of a sweet revolution, as honey production has boomed over the past four years. Most new beekeepers are young entrepreneurs and farmers looking to supplement their income.
Beekeeping equipment suppliers report that their sales have tripled in the past year alone. “Before, I sold 4,000 to 5,000 beekeeping boxes per year. Last year I sold around 15,000,” says Apoorva BV, which produces honey and manufactures equipment.
Apoorva reports a multiple increase in the number of people seeking to learn the trade. “Since Covid, the number of people we train has doubled. About 2,000 people attend our workshops every year now. Before, we had to advertise, but now people are contacting us,” he says.
Growing consumer awareness in recent years is increasing the demand for pure, locally sourced honey.
Consumers want to trace the origin of honey. “We can prevent adulteration by supporting local entrepreneurs,” says Vishweshwar Bhat, managing director of Kadamba, an agricultural initiative in Uttara Kannada that markets honey.
As a result, local cooperatives have experienced an exponential increase in sales. “Previously, we marketed 200 kg of honey per year, in the last two years it has increased to around 3,000 kg per year,” he explains.
This growing demand has attracted entrepreneurs to the profession. Bhat adds that Kadamba currently sources honey from nearly 120 farmers, double the number they previously worked with.
The industrious bees helped alleviate the condition of farmers burdened by crop failures and heavy monsoons.
Most farmers report making a profit of over Rs 1 lakh every year from beekeeping alone. “After the landslide in Kodagu in 2018, my crops suffered. I bought a few beekeeping boxes and first made enough honey for my house. Now I sell around 120 bottles a year, each for Rs 1,000. My annual expenses are around Rs 6,000-7,000,” says CB Thammiah, a farmer from Somwarpet taluk.
“Before, beekeeping was common among coastal farmers. However, now farmers in other regions are also adopting the practice,” said KS Jagadish, Professor and Head of Beekeeping Department, GKVK University of Agricultural Sciences, Bengaluru.
One such beekeeper is Radala Aravinda from Ballari district. “I started beekeeping after suffering heavy losses in horticulture. After a while, I also started making and selling by-products like beeswax. Today, I have over 50 colonies and supply honey, boxes and colonies to buyers across the state and Andhra Pradesh,” says Aravinda.
Landless people set up beehives on other people’s farms, fields and even untended land. Government grants helped motivate them to start beekeeping.
Bees also have immense potential as pollinators. “We can even sell the hive for Rs 2,000 each to the estates, where they are used for pollination,” says Thammiah.
“We see a lot of people in urban areas wanting to train. Farmers also invest in trades such as beekeeping and sericulture. As a result, over the past four to five years, it has become difficult to meet the demand for training,” says Jagadish.