Benefits of beekeeping for MSMEs

Beekeeping is one of the oldest agricultural and forestry activities involving rural and local communities for the production of honey, a natural and healthy sweetener with many proven health, nutrition and beauty benefits. Many other products such as propolis, beeswax, bee venom, pollen and royal jelly are also harvested through beekeeping. Bees are kept commercially in apiaries, where a large number of hives can be placed. According to market analysis firm Mordor Intelligence, the global beekeeping market is growing at a CAGR of 4.3% during the period 2020-2025.

Beekeeping also offers a great area of ​​opportunity for MSMEs in India, helping farmers during difficult seasons, supporting biodiversity and encouraging pollination – a win-win situation on all fronts. According to IMARC, India’s beekeeping market will reach Rs 33,128 million by 2024 growing at a CAGR of 12% by 2024. India is the sixth largest exporter of natural honey, exporting to markets such as Germany, USA, UK, Japan, France, Italy and Spain. In 2019-20, the export of natural honey was 59,536.75 MT at Rs 633.82 crore. The growth of the beekeeping industry aligns with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 1 (no poverty), 2 (zero hunger), 3 (good health and well-being) and 15 (biodiversity and vibrant ecosystem).

Considering the huge potential of beekeeping and related skills activities for the growth of MSMEs, the Center launched the National Beekeeping Honey Mission (NBHM) in April 2018. It offers clusters in each locality with potential to establishment of apiaries, in order to ensure a guaranteed income for the bees. keepers as well as the continued production of honey and other hive products. The cluster model proposed in 2019 is part of the SFURTI (Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries) scheme for MSMEs. Under the scheme, a proposed group can obtain a maximum grant of Rs 5 crore for more than 500 beekeepers, and a proportional grant for a lesser number of beekeepers, which, however, must not be less than 350 beekeepers considering the viability of the band.

Traditionally, individuals and NGOs have been involved in beekeeping, but they often face challenges in processing, branding and selling honey and related products. In addition, losses are incurred due to bad weather and poor pollination. Under the proposed cluster program, individuals will work in groups and FPOs and will be supported by common facilities and infrastructure. As part of the mission, the number of beneficiaries increased from 1,384 in 2017-2018 to 2,637 in 2019-2020, and over 1.10 lakh boxes of bees have been distributed across the country by 2020.

To revive the economy after the covid upheaval, it is important to encourage MSMEs and open up local growth paths like Skill India and Make in India, and similar to White Revolution, Green Revolution, Blue Revolution that have catalyzed sectoral growth, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for Sweet Revolution or Sweet Kranti (for beekeepers) is a movement to make the country aatmanirbhar. In his recent Mann ki Baat, he urged young people to embrace scientific beekeeping as a profession with multiple benefits. It is the best medium for pollination and can increase farmers’ incomes by as little as 10% to 80%. In addition, beekeeping also increases nutritional security and biodiversity conservation. The sustainability of this industry is therefore vital to the economic well-being of the country.

A bee colony includes three different types of bees according to their job. Honey bee colonies consist of a single queen, hundreds of male drones, and 20,000 to 80,000 worker bees. One clutch is capable of producing up to 2,000 eggs in a single day. Each honey bee colony also consists of developing eggs, larvae and pupae. Generally, swarms of bees do not harm people unless provoked, as the workers are trying to protect the queen.

A report by the Beekeeping Development Committee (BDC) under the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council said that India has the potential for around 200 million bee colonies compared to 3.4 million currently and that the increase in the number of bee colonies will boost overall agricultural horticultural productivity. Currently, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Kashmir, Meghalaya, Andaman and Nicobar Islands are the main states where beekeeping cooperatives are active.

Inconsiderate use of pesticides, quality control, branding, marketing and distribution are some of the challenges facing individual beekeepers, and the growth of cooperatives will help make a joint effort to build capacity.

Digital technology, a partner of choice in almost all post-Covid sectors, will also help increase production in the beekeeping sector. Mobile sensors, smartphone apps, IoT and AI can be leveraged to explore the full potential of the apiary. Predictive analysis of data based on algorithms helps beekeepers to provide operational support, maintenance and marketing activities. Such indigenization will go a long way toward achieving the government’s stated goal of becoming a $5 trillion economy by 2024-25.



The opinions expressed above are those of the author.