To bee or not to bee: Why Kashmir must act fast to protect its honey industry
it is a matter of concern that the prized Kashmiri honey is losing its sheen with the waning interest of the local apiarists or bee farmers.
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The ongoing Covid pandemic has made everyone aware of the immense health benefits of consuming honey. Kashmiri honey, on its part, is known for its quality and health benefits globally. The quality of Kashmiri honey is of such renown that Prime Minister Narendra Modi gifted it to Queen Elizabeth II during his maiden voyage to England, among other products treasured for their goodness.
The quality of Kashmir honey is globally acknowledged because the honey produced here is hydrophobic or water repellent. The honey produced in other parts of the world is hygroscopic, that is, it tends to absorb moisture from the surrounding environment.
Due to recent disease breakouts among honey bees in the Valley, honey production has suffered. The government must take quick action and engage agricultural scientists to address the diseases faced by bees so that production is sustained.
The ongoing Covid pandemic has generated awareness regarding the immense health benefits of consuming honey. (Representational photo: Facebook)
So, it is a matter of concern that this prized Kashmiri product is losing its sheen with the waning interest of the local apiarists or bee farmers. A major problem faced by the local farmers is the disease breakout among the bees. For many years, the diseases faced by the bees were consistently brought to the notice of the local authorities. It was also highlighted in Kashmir’s newspapers many times. But since the problem was not addressed, the farmers kept incurring losses. As a result, many of them quit bee-keeping.
The government must take required measures to resolve the problems faced by Kashmiri apiarists. The disease faced by the bees seems to be a viral infection. The local agricultural experts have not been able to find a solution to the problem. The problem may be resolved if the government seeks the help of the agri-scientists at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
The Kashmiri bee-keeping industry must also be equipped with modern tools. The local government can introduce some special programs to promote and sustain bee-keeping in the Valley.
Another factor which has contributed to the decline in the population of bees is the cutting of black locust trees (Acacia Robinia) in the jungles and residential areas of Kashmir, and the uprooting of spur flowers (Plectranthus) in the forests of the Valley. Timely action by the concerned departments and special incentives designed to promote honey production in Kashmir can protect this prized product of Kashmir.
Kashmir is regarded as one of the key zones for honey production. The Valley’s climes are considered highly suitable because pollen and nectar are naturally available to the bees in many parts of the Valley. Migration is an important aspect of commercial bee-keeping in Kashmir. With Covid generating a much bigger market opening up for Kashmir's delicious nectar, it is an appropriate time for the government to revive and strengthen the Valley's bee-keeping industry.