Beekeeping: Vital Input for Sustainable Agriculture



Beekeeping is an agro-based activity which is being undertaken by farmers/landless labours in rural area as an integrated farming practice. Beekeeping supplements income & employment generation and nutritional intake of rural population. Though the honeybees are best known for the honey they produce, their economic role in nature is to pollinate hundreds and thousands of flowering plants and assure setting of seed or fruit. Honeybees have been offering services to the society through ensured pollination in cross-pollinated crops as well as by providing honey and a variety of beehive products. Honey Bees have vital role in sustaining plants bio-diversity resulting in environmental stability. Beekeeping is one of the thrust areas and flagship programmes of Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare.

Importance of Beekeeping in Agriculture and Rural Development:

Value of additional yield from pollination services by honeybees alone is about 15-20 times more than the value of all hive products put together (Dr. Kaloo, 2004). Honey bee pollination also improve the quality of produce. The potential benefits, due to bee pollination, in the form of increase in yields of various crops varies from 5% to 33150%. The crops-wise details of increase in yield due to bee pollination are given as under:

Oilseeds % increase in yields Legume/ pulses % increase in yields
Mustard 128.1 to 159.8 Alfalfa 23.4 to 19,733.3
Rai 18.4 Berseem and other Clovers 23.4 to 33,150
Rapeseed 12.8 to 139.3 Vetches 39 to 20,000
Toria 66 to 220 Broad Beans 6.8 to 90.1
Sarson 222 Dwarf beans 2.8 to 20.7
Safflower 4.2 to 114.3 Kidney beans 500 to 600
Linseed 1.7 to 40 Runner beans 20.6 to 1,100
Niger 260.7 Arahar 21 to 30
Sunflower 20 to 3,400 Other pulses (Arahar, etc.) 27-30 (RAU)
Orchard crops % increase in yields Vegetables for seed/ fruits % increase in yields
Apple varieties 180 to 6,950 Radish 22 to 100
Pears 240 to 6,014 Cabbage 100 to 300
Plums 6.7 to 2,739 Turnip 100 to 125
Cherry 56.1 to 1,000 Carrot 9.1 to 135.4
Straw-berry 17.4 to 91.9 Onion 353.5 to 9,878
Raspberry 291.3 to 462.5 Brinjal 35-67
Persimmon 20.8 Cucumbers 21.1 to 411
Litchi 4,538 to 10,246 Miscellaneous crops
Citrus varieties 7 to 233.3 American cotton 5 to 20
Grapes 756.4 to 6,700 Egyptian cotton 16 to 24
Squashes 771.4 to 800 Buckwheat 62.5
Guava 70-140 Coffee 16.7 to 39. 8
Papaya 22.4-88.9
Mosambi 36-750
Orange 471-900

In view of the above, in addition to 4 inputs: land, labour, capital & management including seed, fertilizer, pesticides, water, machinery, etc., honey bees/beekeeping have proved to be as 5th input for agriculture which regulates the efficacy of other four inputs.

Initiatives/Programmes of Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare & others

Beekeeping has been included as an activity for promoting cross pollination of Horticultural Crops under National Horticulture Mission since May, 2005, which has been merged in Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH). MIDH has been in implementation in all parts of the country. Under MIDH, among others, assistance for promoting Scientific Beekeeping under the component of ‘Pollination Support through Beekeeping’ is available and being implemented by the State Departments of Horticulture/Agriculture in the field. Khadi and Village Industries Commission, Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, State Khadi Board etc. are also implementing beekeeping schemes.

Shri Narender Modi, Hon’ble PM (then CM, Gujarat) understanding process of honey extraction.

National Bee Board (NBB) and its Role:

The main objective of NBB is overall development of beekeeping by promoting scientific beekeeping in the country to increase the productivity of crops through pollination support and production of honey and other beehive products to increase the income of farmers/beekeepers. NBB is one of the National Level Agencies (NLAs) under MIDH.

Presently, the main thrust of NBB is setting up of Integrated Beekeeping Development Centres (IBDCs)/Centres of Excellence (CoEs) on beekeeping, at least one in each State. In these centres (IBDCs), requisite infrastructural facilities for implementing end to end approach for development of scientific beekeeping in the country may be made available at one place. Centres will help the beekeepers/farmers of the area in adopting scientific beekeeping and encourage/promote scientific beekeeping in integrated manner in the Country. 3 IBDCs have been commissioned/approved during 2015-16 and 7 are in process.

Dr. S. K. Malhotra, Horticulture & Agriculture Commissioner and MS, NBB and Dr. B. L. Sarswat, Executive Director,NBB receiving award in Krishi Unnati Mela at IARI, Pusa.

Beekeeping Industry in India:

Presently, about 30 lakhs bee colonies in India are producing 94500 metric tonnes of Honey (2016-17 estimated) including honey from wild honey bees & providing employment to about 3.00 lakh persons. India is one of the honey exporting countries. The major markets for Indian honey are Germany, USA, UK, Japan, France, Italy, Spain etc.

World scenario of beekeeping:

Honey is the precious natural health product which is produced throughout the world. A total quantity of 14-15 lakh metric ton is produced world over. There are 15 countries in the world which produce 90% of the total production. Major honey producing countries are China, USA, Mexico, Argentina, Ukraine, Turkey, Russia & India.

Beekeeping as an Enterprise, source of Livelihood and benefits

Beekeeping industry is source of livelihood for rural poors/tribals/forest based population. Benefits of beekeeping are summarized as under:-
 Unemployed youth can start this business with minimal funds (Rs. 1.00 to 2.00 lakhs);
 Generates 3.75 lakhs mandays to maintain 10,000 Bee colonies in Bee hives;
 Proper utilization of natural resources – nector & pollen otherwise go waste;
 Different sectors and trades benefit from a strong beekeeping industry;
 Beekeeping encourages ecological awareness;
 Beekeeping helps in increasing National income;
 Income from 100 Bee colonies is around Rs. 2.50-3.00 lakhs per annum;
 May help in doubling farmers income by supplementing/complimenting agriculture/ horticulture;
 Export of honey/beehive products attracts foreign exchange;
 It helps in rural development and promotes small village industry;
 Beekeeping is benign: Beekeeping generates income without destroying habitat;
 Encouraging beekeeping encourages biodiversity.
Hence, beekeeping may be adopted as an enterprise by anyone after getting training on the subject.

Potential and Opportunities

India has vast potential for Beekeeping. The diversity in flora and fauna provides more opportunities for the development of beekeeping industry. The National Commission on Agriculture had visualized the need for deploying about 150 million Bee colonies for pollinating 12 major agricultural crops in the country. Presently, 200 million Bee colonies are required for enhancing their yield which will provide employment to 215 lakh persons and produce 10 million tonnes of honey and increase in crop production.

Main issues to be addressed are strengthening of National Bee Board, setting up of State Bee Boards/Missions/IBDCs; production of quality germplasm & nucleus stock of honey bees; indiscriminate use of pesticides in crops; quality standards for honey & other beehive products by BIS/ FSSAI, etc.; disease diagnostic labs & bee products quality analysis labs ; exemptions from various taxes (GST) for Beekeeping/beekeepers; treating beekeepers as farmers in all respects for compensation, etc. in the event of damage of bee colonies and accidental insurance coverage on subsidized rates, insurance of bee colonies on subsidized rates, etc.

*Author is an Executive Director, National Bee Board, Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, M/o Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.
courtesy PIB

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