Bee Farming is a thriving business one can take up comfortably without huge investment to procure costly machineries and tools unlike other manufacturing industries which demands huge investment, costly machineries, production capacity and heavy manpower. With some small wooden bee boxes costing Rs 1200 to 1500 a piece and a Honey extractor with filtration facilities costing Rs 5000 or so, an enthusiast farmer can initiate bee farming venture, said Hamkhankhup, a success tribal bee farmer from Churachandpur.
A good source for family income
Khamkhankhup, 55 years, son of Holkam hailing from Tuivong village in Churachandpur district has been in bee keeping business for the last 20 years. The farming which he initiated with only 10 bee boxes has been a source of his family income. A father of five siblings, Khamkhankhup has been able to maintain his family needs, send his children to school comfortably with the income earned through bee farming.
Brought up in a penury driven family, Khamkhankhup studied upto class X in a local school in Churachandpur. However, he could not pursue higher education as he was compelled to work in the Pamlou to help his parents in maintaining the family. Being the eldest son in the family, he had to work to help his parents, brothers and sisters.
Beginning of bee farming
Regarding how he initiated bee farming, Khamkhankhup recalled that initially he had no any idea of bee keeping. He learnt the skill of bee farming from a Muslim friend hailing from Kwakta village who regularly came to Churachandpur to catch fish. With a bee box provided by his Muslim friend, he started rearing bees on trial basis. His initial venture proved success.
Buoyed by the initial success, he determined to carry on the farming by procuring more bee boxes.
“Bee Keeping is a thriving business with which a landless farmer can equally fetch a good income as that of a farmer who cultivates one Hectare of paddy field just by taking up honey bee farming with 15 Bee boxes. In fact, a bee box can give out 15 to 20 litres of Honey yield which is sold at Rs 250-350 a litre. If a Bee Keeper keeps 100 or above bee boxes, the income he can earn from the business is unlimited. For a bee farmer, limit of earning depends on his effort. Interestingly, since Bee keeping requires less time, investment, manpower and infrastructure, one can take up bee farming comfortably and successfully if he has good work culture. If we can expect unlimited income, then why should we not take up such business, he maintained.
Deforestation impacts bee farmers
Farmer Khamkhankhup said that massive deforestation in his surrounding environment has severely affected his bee farming nowadays. Green environment is conducive for bee farming which entirely depends on horticultural plants. Bees do not give good honey yield when there is no flower giving plants.
Pollen and nectar that come from the flowering plants are the main raw materials for bee farming. Both wild and cultivated vegetation in Manipur constitute an immense potential for bee farming enterprise as these plants are the major or minor sources of nectar and pollens, he said.
Product and Market
He maintained that each Bee box comprises seven to eight bee hives which usually give 15 to 20 honey bottles in a year during the flowering seasons of Monsoon and Winter by extracting 10 to 15 times. Honey harvested during monsoon season is known as Langban Khoihi. Winter season gives best quality honey and good yield. Honey bee farming gives me a good turnover enabling me to maintain my family comfortably.
The honey products from his farm are sold to Churachandpur Town, Moirang and Imphal.
Bee keeping is an art
A well experienced bee keeper can maintain a cordial relation with his bees. He can communicate with his bees. Bees do not attack their master who cares for them all the time once a mutual cordial relation is built up between the bee keeper and the bees. When enemies like ants, cockroach, reptiles, birds, spider, Ngarenkhoi etc. are about to attack their home or they feel uncomfortable to live in the Bee Box, Bees inform their masters for help through their gestures or movement. Bee keepers can psychologically learn what his Bees like through their gesture or behavioral changes, he said.
Bees prefer to live in the Bee Box made of Uningthou and Tera wood as these particular woods are neutral. the bee boxes should be kept neat and clean all the time not to allow ants, reptiles cannot attack them, maintained he.
With the demand for honey in the market on the rise, bee farmers can earn an exorbitant profit from the business. The present local market value of raw pure honey ranges from Rs.200-350 a litre. Local Bee Keepers cannot meet the increasing demand for honey since locally produced pure honey is on high demand and not easily available at any time in the local Market. Manipur can earn a huge income if the locally harvested honey is exported outside, he observed.