Kashmir must act fast to protect its beekeeping and honey industry.
The honey from Kashmir has a unique high quality reputation around the world. It is hydrophobic which means that it repels water. In contrast, honey from other parts of the world absorbs moisture from the surroundings, and that is called hygroscopic honey.
This splendid honey is so delicious that Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave it as a gift to Queen Elizabeth II along with other treasures, when he embarked on his first voyage to England.
It is a grave concern that this prized Kashmiri honey may not be available for much longer. Local beekeepers, also known as apiarists, are losing interest in beekeeping for several reasons.
The honeybees in the Valley have been falling ill for a while, with rampant disease outbreaks, so honey production has declined. The disease seems to be a viral infection, but experts are unable to find a solution so far.
Meet the Oldest Beekeeper in this 1:39-minute video by Kashmir Life:
For years, bee farmers have asked local authorities for help to manage the bee diseases. The issue was never addressed by local government, even after newspapers reported about the problem, so beekeepers suffered many losses. As a result, hundreds of apiarists have left beekeeping and continue to do so.
Due to the Covid pandemic, there is a stable market for Kashmiri honey because it is known to have health benefits. It is well known that honey consumption offers a physical boost.
This would be an ideal time for the government to take action and put some agricultural scientists to work to address the diseases that bees are facing so the beekeeping and honey business can be sustained.
The government should take steps to resolve the problem faced by Kashmiri apiarists. A solution could be found if they were to seek the expertise of the agricultural scientists at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
The local beekeeping industry also needs to be equipped with modern tools, and local government can bring some unique programs to the Valley to promote and expand beekeeping.
There are two other devastating reasons bees are in decline and beekeepers are quitting beekeeping. In Kashmir’s residential areas and in the surrounding jungles and forests, black locust trees (Acacia Robinia) are being cut down. Spur flowers (Plectranthus) that grow in the Valley forests are a favorite of bees and are being uprooted, so bees are dying out.
Kashmir is a key area for honey production due to the climate, which provides rich pollen and nectar to bees around the Valley. It is not yet too late, but action must be taken now to rescue and promote honey production in Kashmir.
In Kashmir, migration plays an important role in commercial beekeeping. Since Covid-19 has created an opening for a bigger market share, it makes sense for the government to help to save the bees so they can enjoy the local nectar and the apiculture industry in the Valley can revive and thrive.