KOCHI: Honey, whose USP as a natural sweetener is nearly as long as mankind itself, has now left a bitter taste in beekeepers’ mouths following the amendment of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India’s (FSSAI) quality parameters on moisture content in the natural produce. As per the FSSAI, the standard moisture content of honey should be below 20 per cent. However, honey produced by farmers in Kerala is found to have a moisture content of 20- 25 per cent.
So it is deemed lowquality and hence unsaleable. The beekepers have urged the government to take up the issue with FSSAI. They are also planning to seek legal recourse if indeed the attempts do not bear fruit. According to Sunil B, divisional engineer, Kerala Agro Industries Corporation and the implementing officer of the Centrally-sponsored beekeeping schemes, the Central authority set the parameter after taking into consideration the honey produced in northern India.
“The climatic conditions in north Indian states and Kerala couldn’t be anymore different. Also, the bees used to produce honey vary,” he said. “The sizzling climate of Kerala is the main reason for the high moisture content in the honey being produced here. Also, farmers in Kerala use Apis cerana indica or Indian honey bee while Italian bees are used up north,” said Sunil. And the honey produced by Indian bees has a higher moisture content compared to those from Italian bees. “Another factor which ought to be taken note of is the difficulty in using Italian bees at honey farms in Kerala.
They can’t survive in the Kerala climate,” he said. According to him, Agmark and other quality control agencies, both domestic and international, have taken into consideration all these factors while fixing the parameters. “Earlier, the parameters set by FSSAI were the same as that of the other quality control agencies,” said Sunil. Philip Mathew, a beekeeper, said the farmers are afraid to market their produce. “Recently, after the FSSAI amendment, samples were taken from various brands.
One brand sold by a beekeeper at Angamaly and Perumbavoor was found to have 21.3 per cent moisture. He was slapped with a `10 lakh fine,” said Philip. As of now, production of honey has fallen 60 per cent in the state. “If the state government doesn’t take steps to help out the farmers, Kerala honey, which is famous among domestic and international consumers, might disappear from the market forever,” he said. After the farmers and the organisations associated with honey production in the state approached the state government seeking help, Agriculture Minister V S Sunil Kumar directed Kerala Agriculture University (KAU) to conduct a study and submit a report.