“Demand for honey exceeds supply/production in Manipur, because there is less number of professional beekeepers in the state while the numbers of consumers of honey products are many. As such, beekeeping has now become a lucrative and thriving profession in Manipur. Bee farmers can earn a lot of profit. The honey products of TLB Farm are mainly supplied to local markets only. Now, I receive demands for honey in huge quantity. But I cannot provide it because of limited production. However, I am planning to increase the existing 50 bee boxes to 100 this time to cater to this increasing demand.”
Takhellambam Lukhoi Singh, Proprietor of TLB Farm told Manipur Times in a recent exclusive interview.
LUKHOI’S GENERAL BACKGROUND
Takhellambam Lukhoi Singh, 50 years, son of Late Takhellambam Tolen hailing from Chanam Sandrok village is the eldest son among seven siblings of five sons and two daughters. He passed matriculation from Deva High School, Kakwa. However, he studied from class I to class VIII in Thiyam High School. He is now a father of two sons.
He said that he could not continue his studies as he, being the eldest son in the family, had to help his parents in maintaining the family. He substituted to his parents’ income and helped his younger brothers and sisters in their studies. Since childhood, he has been spending life as a farmer.
HOW HE STARTED BEEKEEPING
Usually, he loves beekeeping. Initially, he did not begin the beekeeping job with a commercial motive but as a hobby. When he harvested honey from his bee boxes, people of his locality came to his house to buy honey. Considering its business prospects, he determined to install more bee boxes to bring out more honey products, he observed.
Besides beekeeping, various plants like banana, pineapple, soybean, papaya, watermelon are also grown in TLB Farm located at Chanam Sandrok Mamangching which is of more than ten acre in area.
According to Lukhoi, about 50 bee boxes are installed at TLB Farm. A bee box can produce at least three bottles (375 ml) of honey. One chamber can produce one honey bottle. Harvesting honey is done twice a year i.e. during the season of September to October known as Langban Khoihi and February to May. February to May is the best season during which best quality and more products of honey can be harvested. During this season, honey is harvested every week. He sells one honey bottle at Rs200. Growing of flowers aplenty is the most favourable condition for bee farmers to get more honey.
“I can expect a turnover of Rs90,000 to Rs1,20,000 in a month during the honey harvesting season if all the 50 bee boxes kept at my farm happen to produce at least 150 honey bottles every week. I cannot precise my turnover gained through this beekeeping business”, Lukhoi told Manipur Times.
If one wishes to be a professional beekeeper, he needs to know the art and tactics of how to keep bees. It is required to understand the life cycle of bees. A beekeeper should know the enemies of bees such as ants, cockroach, reptiles, birds, spider, Ngarenkhoi and so on. Bees recognise its beekeeper and inform him when an enemy is about to attack their house through behavioural change. So, a beekeeper needs to learn the signals given by bees and should always keep the bee boxes neat and clean so that ants, reptiles cannot attack them. Queen, worker and drown are the main components in a bee box. The function of queen is only to lay eggs while the workers fly here and there looking for flowers to collect nectar for making honey. Bees have a good work culture.
He started beekeeping with only one bee box initially. After some time, he could increase the number of bee box to 18. Horticulture Department, Government of Manipur also gave him 32 bee boxes two years back free of cost. Then he could increase his honey production, said Lukhoi, who has been practicing the profession since 1986.
TLB Farm, besides producing honey, grows banana, pineapple, soybean, papaya, and other vegetable items also as a new venture. Last year, he planted many banana trees of G-9 variety at his farm but could not earn much profit as almost all the banana trees died due to unfavourable climatic condition and acute shortage of water.
However, he could get some bananas and sold it at Rs12 per kg. Banana trees require huge amount of water. Since his farm is located close to a hillock, he could not provide enough water for the banana trees leading to drying up of many plants. Having failed in banana crops, he has now planted about 15,000 pineapple plants this year instead of banana trees with the hope of good profit from it. The pineapple plants were given by the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Andro free of cost. Moreover, the said KVK gave him two bags of urea and super fertilisers, insecticide ‘TATAMIDA’ for the protection of pineapple saplings from fungus.
Lukhoi expects a huge amount of profit would be earned from his pineapple farm in next year’s Rathajatra (Kang festival) if 90 percent of the pineapple saplings planted at his farm grow successfully.
“I am very thankful to the Horticulture Department of Manipur and the KVK, Andro for their generous assistance provided to poor farmers. Besides this help, I need some financial assistance from the Government to promote my farm. Only some material assistance is not enough to run a multi farm and bring out more products. Government needs to search for the real farmers working in the field and provide them financial assistance. Only some fake farmers who have nexus with the Government officials are enjoying the benefits meant for the real farmers in Manipur while the real farmers are living hand to mouth,” Lukhoi said.
Lukhoi’s wife and his two sons always help him in all the works of the farm. The honey products of the farm are sold under the brand name, ‘TLB farm’. The honey products of the farm are now very popular for its quality. TLB Farm always tries to make available of quality honey to the people, he said.
Regarding its medicinal values, bee farmer Lukhoi said that honey contains high medicinal values. Joint pains, nervousness etc. can be cured by having a solution made of honey and raw soybean (Nung Hawai). For its high medicinal values, costumers throng at his farm with the onset of honey harvesting season. The only problem is that his farm having only 50 bee boxes as of now, cannot cater to the demands. Beekeeping has now become one of the most thriving businesses in growing honey market. His farm welcomes those who love beekeeping career. The farm is ready to share the inputs on how to start beekeeping.