Vol. 4 Num 341 Sat. May 15, 2004  

Honey farmers can earn forex
Yield can be raised to 4000 maunds annually in Modhupur from 1200 with govt help

Netrakona: The forest area in Mymensingh was named Modhupur for its abundant natural supply of modhu (honey). But the natural supply depleted long ago with gradual shrinking of forests.

A good number of farmers still cling to their traditional profession amid odds, producing about 1200 maunds of honey a year. The production can be raised to about 4000 maunds, leaving a sizeable export surplus, if the problems are removed and assistance provided, they say.

Marketing problem, lack of scientific preservation facilities, HYV bees and bank loan and high price of medicine to protect bees from diseases are the major problems.

Officials at the Bangladesh Institute of Agriculture (BIA) at Rasulpur at Fulbaria in Mymensingh said there are about 2000 honey farmers in Madhupur, Muktagacha, Fulbaria, Ghatail and Jamalpur in Modhupur forest area and in adjacent Sharishabari and Gopalpur upazilas.

BIA Director Nurul Islam at Rasulpur told this correspondent that they purchased 500 maunds of honey from farmers last year at Tk 120 per kilogram. Farmers supply honey to BIA only when they do not buyers from outside, he said. The market price rallies on Tk. 180 per kg, he said.

Sunil Nokrak, a honey farmer at Joynagacha village in Modhupur, said he sells honey to BIA only when he does not find a trader because BIA offers cheaper rate. Sunil said last year he sold most of his product to traders in Mymensingh, Kishoregonj, Netrakona and Gazipur district towns.

Lutfur Rahman Masud, an educated young honey farmer at Nayagao village in Fulbaria upazila in Mymensingh, said he started honey farming in 1990 after three months' training at the BIA.

He started with only three bee boxes (one box accommodates a hub of 3000-3500 bees). Now he has 15 boxes. Last year he sold 165 kilograms of honey from 15 boxes and earned Tk 23,100.

Masud is cultivating Apish Sirana bee, a local variety. He is cultivating the local variety because he can not procure the high yielding Apish Malifera variety, which is costly.

The yield from Apish Malifera is almost double that from the local variety, he said. Besides, Apish Malifera bees are resistant to diseases unlike the Sirana variety.

Masud said BISIC and BIA sell Apish Malifera bees. But he cannot purchase those because of high price. A box of Malifera bees are sold at Tk 2500 to 3000, which poor honey farmers can not afford, he said.

He said the Apish Sirana bees are susceptible to various diseases. Once the hub in one box is attacked, all are infected and die. The preventive medicine is imported and is not easily available.

Abul Kalam of Fulbaria headquarter is cultivating honey since 1992. He has 14 boxes, all with Apish Sirana. He said he tried for bank loan to expand the farming, but did not get.

Abul Hossen, Executive Director of Honey Cultivation Development Corporation at Modhupur, when contacted, said Modhupur forest area is famous for honey for long because the environment is suitable.

But honey farmers do not get any financial assistance from government. He said 90 per cent of the farmers are poor. The yield can be increased many times if the farmers are given assistance and other facilities. Only replacing the local variety with the Malifera variety could raise the annual yield to around 3000 maunds, he said. But the farmers said they could increase the yield to around 4000 maunds if their efforts are patronised by the government.

Lutfor Rahman nursing bees at his 'bee colony' at Nayagaon village in Fulbaria upazila. The photo was taken last week. PHOTO: STAR