PALAKKAD: For the last several years, Ravi Marthandam and Justin have been working with an unusual kind of pet - honeybee. For the siblings, it is not just a pastime. They earn their livelihood from it. Welcome to the world of beekeeping - a merging place of hobby and a source of income.
Ravi, a native of Kanyakumari, has put up 400 bee boxes in Sreekrishnapuram, Palakkad, while Justin has put up 500 boxes in Thachampara, also in the district, and they have company in Selvaraj and Raju, natives of Tiruchi, in Kottapuram. And each of them clock a turnover of Rs6 to 10 lakh annually from the sale of honey.
Ravi, Justin and others are among the nearly 300 farmers from Tamil Nadu, who are immune to the stings of bees. A K Venugopal, a bee farmer from Palode, who has 300 boxes of ordinary bees and 100 boxes of stingless bees (cheruthen eacha), explained the influx of TN bee farmers. “The farmers from TN are enterprising and here there is no lease/rent too. They put up boxes in coconut groves and rubber plantations. The honey is collected in every five or six days, and for each collection, the owner of the plantation is given one litre honey. Transportation of honey to TN does not attract sales tax and the societies purchase it. If one farmer has 500 boxes, he could clock a turnover of Rs7 to 8 lakh annually,” said Venugopal.
Ravi agreed. “We have been undertaking bee keeping for the past many years. During the off seasons, only one or two persons are necessary and when there is regular honey collection we bring labourers from our native place. During the off seasons, we also supply bee boxes to local farmers. It is a profitable venture. In TN, we get some rains during the summer months which result in lower honey yield as the flowers wither away. On the other hand, in Palakkad, it is sunny,” said Ravi. Venugopal said the farmers in the state were not keen to sell honey to the Khadi board.
“Khadi Board provides us a subsidy of 35 per cent for loans taken by the farmers. However, the Board purchases honey from us at Rs110 per kg and sells it for Rs380. Therefore, I do not sell it to the Board. I get Rs250 per kg from juice parlours and other domestic buyers,” he said.
Ajay Kumar, the Village Industries Officer, said: “The Khadi board and Horticorp, apart from giving subsidy, impart training to breeders.”