Shopian: Come winter and the majority of Kashmir’s population starts consuming honey to keep the body warm and diseases at bay, but doubts over the quality of the honey they are buying keeps most of them confused.
The good news for them is that in the last few years, many youths in Kashmir have started bee farming on a large scale, thus ensuring natural and good-quality honey in the market.
Waseem Rafiq, 32, is one example of the youth brigade that has started a bee farming business. In 2016, after quitting the job at a multi-national honey company where he was working as a field supervisor, Rafiq started his own apiculture in Kashmir.
Rafiq told Kashmir Reader that in his 12 years at the company, he saw firsthand the company flourishing from ten-thousand honey bee boxes to fifty-thousand boxes and giving lots of jobs to people. It made him think of starting a brand of his own.
“In November 2015, I bought 57 bee boxes with the aim that I will make it a full-time business and will create jobs for local youth. Production of quality honey particularly for the local customers was my prime motive. Thank God, I succeeded in both the missions,” he said.
Rafiq said he now has 1500 bee boxes and each box produces around 40 kilograms of honey, throughout the year. The honey of different seasons is sold at different rates, he said.
“The best is the honey from saffron flowers, followed by honey from Kiker flower, mixed flowers, and then mustard,” he said.
Rafiq has also provided jobs to 9 employees who are natives of his own area, Aglar Shopian. He has plans to create yet more jobs.
“Till recently, I had 1100 boxes but now we have 1500 after the breeding. It obviously will need more manpower,” he said.
There are many honey brands sold in Kashmir and other parts of India but none of them is a trusted one. Honey sold by major brands is laced with sugar syrup, a study conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) reported in December last year.
“I am available to answer any queries of customers, and open to any government agency for a quality check. One can take my product to any laboratory for quality check and if my product fails the quality tests, I will wind up the business,” Rafiq avowed.
He said that many subsidiary schemes recently started by the Agriculture department have been game changers for the beekeeping business. “The department of agriculture, with which my business is affiliated, not only gave me technical training but benefits of many subsidiary schemes as well,” he said.
Rafiq said that he shifts his bee boxes to different states of India by the end of September and brings them back to Kashmir in March. “We produce about 44,000 kilograms of honey in a year and it is sold at Rs 250 to Rs 800 (raw) per kg in the market, depending on its season,” he said.
“We also collect pollen, which is sold for thousands of rupees in the market. I have also plans to buy a machine for collecting the venom of honey bees. Honey bee venom has high rates across the world for use in treatment of human diseases,” he said.