BENGALURU : As the state government is firming up plans to aggressively release new honey brands and make a major splash in the honey market globally, The New Indian Express found that the government’s force of specialised apiarists has shrunk to just seven with over 100 vacancies across the state.
Officers from horticultural and agricultural departments are holding key positions, though they do not understand the intricacies of apiculture. Unless genuine apiculture professionals are recruited, the state’s honey ambitions will go up in smoke. That is because by 2026, the last of the specialists retires.
While big brands are being looked at suspiciously for selling ‘fake honey’, some rare, genuine honey qualities have sold for up to Rs 9 lakh per kg in the global market. Indian honey does not command that price though. Some excellent qualities procured locally sell for around Rs 10,000 per kg after they are branded. Some of the finest quality honey is collected between Brahmagiri Hills and Pushpagiri Hills between Kodagu and Dakshina Kannada and sold at high prices because of its medicinal qualities.
The honey collected from Jamboti in the Belagavi-Sirsi-Uttara Kannada area too commands high prices. The government wants to start two new brands and is holding a meeting on Monday to take the plan forward. Vasanth Kumar, former horticulture department director, who also served as secretary in the agriculture department, said, “The government has been given a vision document in 2014. An independent body, with different stakeholders, has to be set up and it can establish a biodiversity park for honey. Building two new honey brands is not a one-time exercise.”
The destruction of apiculture department started in 2011 when it was taken out of the industries department and included in the horticulture department. Sources said the officers who have remained have not been promoted as higher-ups do not understand the potential of honey. Many apiculturists have taken voluntary retirement. Many Madhuvanas, or apiaries, are bereft of experts.
The saddest reminder is that of the State Training Centre in Bhagamandala that does not have even one original apiculture officer. The centre offers a certification course and receives researchers and foreigners. They go around honey parks at nearby locations, like Beshetygeri, Kedamullur, Birunani, Korangala,
Galibeedu, Somwarpet, Jakkanahalli, Shantahalli and Madapura.