India Region

World Bee Day: Branding, Solid Strategy Necessary for India’s Honey

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Guest Author: Shashikant Trivedi, Senior Journalist

19 May 2024, New Delhi: Around the year 2000, the then Madhya Pradesh government gave the responsibility to the Khadi Village Industries Board for the scheme of branding locally grown spices, pickles, papad, etc. With the help of multinational company Hindustan Lever (now Unilever) and famous advertising company Lowe Lintas, the Vindhya Valley brand was born for some of Madhya Pradesh’s food products. Honey was also included in these products. However, honey is a food item that is not grown by farmers but is made by bees. The contribution of these small creatures is extremely important in the production of the world’s food.

Honey is a healthy food. It is not only known for its sweetness and taste but also has various medicinal properties. Even though discoveries have made doctors and scientists consider the sugar found in honey to be as harmful as the sugar in the market. Apart from food and beverages, honey is also used in military, medical and cosmetic, paint and chemical industries. A special substance produced by bees called propolis contains a series of plant resins. Bees use it to seal the holes in the hive. Propolis is now used for various medicinal uses such as anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-tumor and some anti-viral. Royal jelly is widely used as a food supplement, and although there is some evidence that royal jelly may have some cholesterol-lowering, anti-inflammatory, wound-healing, and antibiotic effects. There is no concrete data and study on honey varieties, related products, exact number of beekeepers in India.

Today the demand for honey is increasing in the global market. According to estimates, its global market figure is expected to grow at an annual growth rate of 5.2 percent, from $ 9 billion (approximately Rs 7500 crore) in 2023 to $ 13 billion (approximately Rs 11000 crore) in 2031.

India started its first organized exports in the year 1996-97. According to central government data, India exported 59,999 metric tonnes of natural honey worth Rs 716 crore (US$96.77 million) during 2020-21. America imports about 80 percent of honey from India’s total exports. In 2020-21 it was 44,881 metric tons. Apart from this, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh and Canada import Indian honey.

In India, about 12,699 beekeepers and 19.34 lakh honey bee colonies are registered with the National Bee Board and India is producing about 1,33,200 metric tonnes of honey (2021-22 second advance estimate).

According to statistics, more than 50% of the honey production in India is being exported to other countries. India exports honey to about 83 countries. Honey varieties exported from India include mustard honey, eucalyptus honey, litchi honey, sunflower honey, multi-flora Himalayan honey, acacia honey, and wild flora honey. Currently, a total of 102 projects are running under the National Beekeeping and Honey Mission to help beekeepers, for which Rs 133.31 crore (2021) has been approved. About 14,000 beekeepers are registered with more than 200 registered societies on the Madhukranti portal of the National Bee Board. Still, there is a need for a solid branding strategy for beekeepers in India.

Compared to developed countries, honey consumption in India is very low, at about 10 grams per person per year. From a producer’s perspective, the honey industry faces some significant challenges. Honey consumption has declined after the pandemic. Compared to developed countries, honey consumption in India is very low, at about 10 grams per person per year.

The government has recently imposed a minimum export price of $2 per kg. According to the USDA, the US imports Indian natural honey at about $1.1 per pound, which is lower than imports from other international competing markets.

Due to limited cooperation, beekeepers are often forced to sell in local markets at a price of ₹100-110 per kg, depending on the season. The honey industry needs a strong marketing strategy to survive in the market for a long time. There are limited producers in the organized Indian honey market, and there is still a lot of potential for many producers, especially start-ups and FPOs.

While some FPOs have started to develop the honey value chain, they still need to improve their branding strategies. Like Saras Mela, the government, especially the state governments, should organize annual national-level fairs for honey and its related products, bringing together buyers and sellers. This year, Maharashtra has started a state-level honey fair, but there is a need for collaboration across states. Further, FPOs and start-ups should be encouraged to collaborate with industries like pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, wine, etc. to provide continuous price support to producers.

Price guarantee should be ensured for producers with at least 30-50 percent margin over the production cost. By providing adequate compensation to producers, they can enter into new honey products. They will be motivated to diversify and improve their livelihoods. To promote the branding of honey in international markets, a prerequisite for export, efforts should be made to improve NMR testing.

India lacks adequate infrastructure to meet NMR testing requirements. On the occasion of World Bee Day (May 20), India should protect indigenous communities engaged in honey production, highlighting local stories of honey producers and their unique products through product labeling.

To protect the origin of the product and ensure its authenticity, three honey products have been registered under the Geographical Indication tag, but more efforts are needed to increase their market value.

Concerted efforts are needed to link beekeepers, buyers, quality testing laboratories and market experts across the honey value chain, thereby creating a sustainable honey market.

Also Read: AITMC Ventures Ltd. (AVPL International) Bags DGCA Type Certification for Agriculture Drone VIRAJ

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