Honey Producers Struggle Financially Due to Low Prices
Beekeepers are considered honey producers. Those located in Chalanbeel, in the wetlands of the northern region of Bangladesh, allege that they are forced to sell their crop at “throw away” pricing.
These farmers have the double burden of not only trying to compete as local producers against foreign brands in the domestic market, they are also struggling to recoup their costs for commercial beekeeping.
About 20% of the country’s domestic honey comes from the Chalanbeel area, where it is mostly sourced from mustard oil seed flowers. In the month December-January, known locally as Poush, all the fields are covered in yellow mustard flowers.
This unrelated 2:25-minute video by Live Agro shows a little bee enjoying a mustard flower as she pollinates it:
Winter is the season when most honey is collected, and according to local beekeepers, this season they expect about 1,500 tons of ‘high quality’ honey to be produced from this mustard field as long as the weather cooperates.
The Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) Pabna office says this year farmers are cultivating mustard oil seed on 70,000 hectares of land in the Chalanbeel area. These bee farmers—there are about 1,000 of them in these fields according to deputy director of DAE Md Abdul Kader—are already out collecting honey from morning until night.
In comparison, 2018 figures from the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) show that there are 25,000 farmers and 7,000 bee farms around the country.
Jahangir Alam is the President of the Pabna Beekeepers Cooperative Society, and President of North Bengal Beekeepers’ Association. He says beekeepers are worried about receiving a fair price in the current situation.
He indicates that there is a ‘syndicate of honey traders’ that are responsible for the price uncertainty and is seeking that measures be taken to ensure that local honey vendors can do sustainable business so they can stay in business.
The price per kilogram in the local market, although not fixed, is at Tk200 - Tk300 crore. In metropolitan areas one kilogram of foreign branded honey costs over Tk1200 crore.
Local honey producers have the advantage that their honey is fresh, and consumers believe that when honey is consumed in the shortest possible time it has better health benefits. The demand for domestic honey continues to increase, but regardless, some honey is reputedly smuggled out of the country.
Mustard flower honey from the vast fields of Chalanbeel is said to be an effective remedy for colds and cold-related diseases, which makes it popular. Beekeepers come from a wide area to these fields for this reason. They position their bee boxes around and in the mustard fields and collect honey every few days.
Abdus Sobhan, a beekeeper from Padna, has 45 bee boxes there and is already collecting honey. He hopes the weather continues to cooperate and is worried about getting a fair price for his honey.
The bigger picture honey market in Bangladesh shows that it is health consciousness-driven to a large degree so the market for honey and foods containing honey could go above Tk1,000 crore, increasing from Tk200 crore.
There is a growing demand for Bangladesh honey in many foreign markets like Japan, India, Slovenia, the Middle East and the European Union (EU) so hopefully this market will expand and local beekeepers will realize better economic prospects for their hard work.
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