Exploring Commercial Beekeeping in J&K

Dr. Banarsi Lal & Dr.Vikas Tandon
Honey is a great source of natural energy. It has an incredible medicinal properties. Beekeeping can be a profitable enterprise, if it is done scientifically. Besides honey, pollen, beewax, royal jelly and pollination are other revenue generating sources of beekeeping.
Beekeeping increases the pollination process and increases the crops production. It is estimated that about 70 metric tonnes of honey is produced in J&K. Union Territory of J&K has tremendous potential in beekeeping because of its conducive climate for beekeeping. It is endowed with diverse forest resources. A good area under forests and negligible amount of agro-chemicals use in agriculture in J&K increases the potential of organic honey production. Horticulture sector in J&K generates around 1500 crores of revenue and thus sustains its economy and beekeeping boosts the horticultural sector by intensifying the pollination process. Horticultural sector in J&K provides employment to around 25 lakh people and supports to around 6 lakh families. Beekeeping helps to generate more income and employment as it increases the crops production by 15-20 per cent. It has been observed that almond production can be enhanced by 33-47 per cent by providing adequate number of pollinators. Beekeeping has positive impact on both horticulture and agriculture. It improves the overall production and quality of crops. It has been observed that in some areas fruit crops production has declined due to lack of pollinators. More emphasis should be given on the pollination especially in case of fruits crops so that the quality and quantity of fruits crops production can be enhanced. Beekeeping can play a significant role in increasing the crops production in these areas. By beekeeping crops production can be enhanced even in less irrigated areas. It has been observed that a unit of 10 colonies multiplies to about 15-20 colonies in a year. Beewax and honey can be a very good enterprise to export and generate more money for the farmers. This venture has an immense potential in J&K and can bring prosperity among the farmers if explored commercially. J&K Government is promoting the beekeeping and various organisations are coming forward to support the farmers for beekeeping. Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) of SKUAST-J and SKUAST-K and Department of Agriculture are imparting technical skills among the farmers. Beehives are also provided to the farmers on subsidy basis so that beekeeping can be promoted. Not a big infrastructure is required for establishing beekeeping unit. This enterprise does not require big capital amount for start-up rather it can be initiated with little capital amount. It can be a remunerative profession for the rural youths. Beekeeping can be great source of livelihood for the farmers of J&K.
J&K is considered to be one of the most important and suitable beekeeping places in India. Beekeeping has been an age-old tradition in J&K and is practiced from generation to generation. For commercial beekeeping, scientific techniques need to be applied. Special capacity building programmes need to be organised for the beekeepers. Unemployed youths of J&K can come forward for beekeeping. Agricultural universities need more research on this venture so that it can be adopted at a large scale. Pollination centres need to be established and beehives can be provided to the unemployed youths on rent basis. Beekeeping can prove as a promising prospect in J&K. Beekeeping can revolutionize horticultural sector in J&K. Unemployment is a serious problem in J&K and it seems that it is aggravating. Government jobs are very less and private sector is almost negligible in J&K. More number of educated youths are becoming unemployment in J&K. Unemployment problem in J&K can be mitigated through beekeeping up to some extent. Beekeeping can be a vibrant source of employment in J&K. This sector can play a significant role in doubling the farmers’ income by 2022.The value addition in honey can bring a boost in J&K and can further generate more employment in J&K. Testing, bottling, packaging, storing, branding and marketing of honey can bring prosperity in J&K. Fabrication of gloves, bee veils, queen excluders, honey extractors, smokers etc. can also open new avenues of employment in J&K. Sometimes farmers are jolted by the parasitic mite (Varroa destructor) which kills bee colonies resulting into losses to the farmers. Timely management of this mite is essential to protect the hives.
Agricultural crops are seasonal and provide bee forage for limited periods only. Bee colonies cannot be sustained throughout the year in any cultivated area, unless there has been an integrated intensive agriculture, agro-forestry and social forestry systems. During the forage scarcity periods between two crop seasons, bee colonies need to be moved to another area. J&K possesses a variety of crops and tree species and thus present good opportunities for migratory beekeeping. In J&K, colonies from Jammu region can be migrated to other places within the UT rich in flora during the off seasons. In J&K, the colonies are kept in different locations in the plains where mustard and toria are cultivated. During the severe cold in January, the colonies perform well even when they get very short foraging time. In the months of February and March colonies get nectar from mustard and eucalypts. Honey yield can be increased in September from Citrus spp. In J&K, mustards and eucalypts flower later, i.e., in February-March. Colonies can therefore be taken to other areas of UT. Colonies can then be migrated to litchi growing areas in March-April for the main flow from litchi. J&K is suitable for the stationary and migratory beekeeping because of its favourable climatic conditions and diverse natural sources. Beekeeping with Apis mellifera is popular in J&K. Knowledge of floral resources and appropriate migration schedules in different beekeeping regions can increase the quality and quantity of honey. Various migration schedules for different phytogeographic regions in J&K are suggested by the scientists. Mustard, gram, eucalyptus, shisham, berseem, toria, maize, citrus, guava, cucurbits etc., are grown in J&K and these crops are preferred by the bee colonies. Migratory beekeeping in J&K can help to maximize honey yields and farmers can fetch more money. The natural flora of J&K forests is different from many other parts of the country. J&K has vast geographical area, varying climate from temperate to tropical, torrid to arctic and from total aridity to a maximum of humidity. Forests cover about 19.95 per cent of the area in J&K. Large quantities of deodar, fir, toon, teak and other trees are grown for timber. Several of these species provide nectar to honey bees. Oilseed crops like toria, mustard etc. are useful to honey bees. Among other commonly cultivated plant species useful to honey are mango, lemon, apple, orange, plum, litchi, pear, peach, cherry, jamun etc. Road-side plantations can also contribute to honey production in J&K. Public and private organisations support is needed for the farmers. After white revolution and green revolution extra efforts are needed to make sweet revolution successful. Sweet revolution can transform the lives of farmers of J&K.
(The author are Scientist & Head, KVK, Reasi and Professor, Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology-Jammu (SKUAST-J)