Honey production turns bitter in state

MADIKERI: Honey production in Coorg has taken a beating with bees being afflicted by the Thai sac brood disease. Said to originate from Thailand, the disease has been killing the bees including the queen bee. Researchers at the GKVK institution have not been able to make any headway with a remedy. The disease attacked the industry in the 1990s which spread all across India.

Apiaries in the Western Ghats suffered a major setback with the spread of the disease. The major setback was in Kodagu district known for its honey production. The government schemes were slowly withdrawn. Thirteen beekeeping centres run by the government have turned to decrepit buildings.

Of the 32 posts at the government centre, 25 are vacant. The industrial department has unofficially passed on the responsibilities to the horticultural department to implement beekeeping development schemes. The department does not have the funds to maintain the 13 beekeeping centres.

Earlier, local youths found employment in beekeeping, maintaining apiaries and other related activities.

Sirakaje Madappa, an apiarist in Talacauvery who has been producing honey since 40 years says he extracts honey 5 times in a year and produces more than 30 kgs of honey.

Talking to Sunday Times of India, horticulture deputy director J Shivamurthy said that beebreeders will be selected by the department on the basis of their technical experiences. They will be provided 50% subsidy up to the limit of Rs 1.50 lakh to produce a minimum of 3,000 colonies per annum for a period of five years. Bee colonies produced by bee breeders will be distributed to farmers in 50% subsidy rate.

The main hope for beekeepers are the two strong cooperative societies running in Bhagamandala and Virajpet. Both societies collect the honey from the beekeepers in Kodagu and process them and through Agmark clearance. They market them under the brand name Coorg Honey. Bhagamandala honey society president Satishkumar disclosed that the society is now processing and bottling the honey with the help of manual labour. The society plan to install automatic machines with the help of Khadi Commission. But the project requires a Rs 1.2 crore investment.

At present more than 50% of honey is purchased from Punjab due to less production in Kodagu. After proper processing and mixing with original Coorg Honey, they are bottled for sale, he added. In Virajpet, another cooperative society Honey and Beeswax Producers Society Ltd. collects honey separately from farmers..

The duplicate sale of honey is rampant in Kodagu. Bhagamandla honey society president Satishkumar said he has requested the Kodagu deputy commissioner to take stringent action against the duplicate sellers.


Incentives to boost honey production in Kodagu

Coorg Honey and Wax Producers’ Cooperative Society at Virajpet in Kodagu will offer concessions to its members to encourage honey production in the district, president of the society K.K. Mandanna said on Friday.

Addressing presspersons here, he said the society would provide 25 per cent concession on beehives made of teakwood. The cost of the each unit was Rs. 2,000. “Honey family”, comprising bees and honeycomb, too was being given concession up to 50 per cent. Besides, the Department of Horticulture here was supplying material needed for beekeeping by providing 25 per cent concession. The Dharmastala Gramabhyudaya Samste too was offering concessions on purchase of beehives.

Mr. Mandanna said the society had processed 60,000 kg of honey procured from different parts of the district, mainly Makutta and Thithimathi.

There was a demand for one lakh kg of honey in Kodagu every year, he said, and urged farmers to take to beekeeping to meet the demand. He did not rule out adulteration of honey by some persons in Kodagu, especially while selling it to tourists. The society sold “Agmark” certified honey. The society’s annual turnover was Rs. 1.5 crore, he said.

The former president of the society Chiriyapanda Raja Nanjappa said that honey was not being bought by the society from outside the district or State. He ruled out adulteration of honey sold by the society. The “Thai sac brood” disease played havoc some years ago, affecting honey production in the district. Honey production had improved now, Mr. Nanjappa said.

B.C. Somaiah, member of the society, was present.

-The Hindu