Providing an alternative livelihood model to farmers, honey production in the vast mustard fields of Bharatpur district in eastern Rajasthan is changing the face of the rural economy. Beekeeping activities have turned the backward region into a ‘honey bowl’ amid rising cost of agricultural inputs and shrinking size of farmland.
Beekeepers from the nondescript village of Nagla Kalyan witnessed a virtual communication with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the district headquarters on New Year’s Day. They briefed him on the formation of Peasant Producer Organization Honey Fed (OPF) , with which they intend to expand their activities. About 400 farmers in the commune, who have become members of the FPO, intend to continue their action by eliminating the role of intermediary.
The National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (NAFED) will assist Honey Fed in branding and collective marketing of honey and explore overseas markets for them. The FPO will shortly receive an equity grant of ₹15 lakh for setting up a honey processing plant in the warehouse premises of the local industrial zone.
Honey production in Bharatpur, one of the major mustard growing districts, was estimated at 3,520 metric tons in 2021. Bees cross-pollinate yellow mustard flowers, resulting in a 20-25% increase in yield of crops, which has also encouraged the farmers to adopt beekeeping as a farming-based activity.
Hardayal Singh, 48, a farmer from Nagla Kalyan who was among the first to adopt beekeeping as a profession, said The Hindu that it had immense potential to provide livelihoods for marginal farmers, unemployed youth and landless workers.
The formation of the FPO for honey production, which is one of five established in the country, will enable honey exporters to buy the product directly from beekeepers given the high demand for honey and wax in Europe and in West Asia. “The announcement of the MSP for honey can also be an important step in supporting beekeepers,” Singh said.