KP’s Beekeepers expecting China’s Experience
PESHAWAR: KP is abundant with biodiversity, which makes the provincial geographical position proper and suitable habitat for beekeeping. Pakistan produces “7,500 metric ton honey annually”, of which a large portion comes from KP. Although KP favours beekeeping, there are not as many farmers coming to apiculture the way they should be. Inaccessibility of farmers to markets, lack of quality medicines and modern production technologies are amongst the factors hindering the growth of bee farming in the province. However, beekeepers in this part of the country are looking to China for the transfer of the latest technology, standard production modes and training to increase their honey production.
Sharif Zada, 48, is a beekeeper from Thana in the Malakand district of KP. He has been associated with apiculture for the past 27 years. “I learnt this art from my elder brother; initially, I had around 30 beehives but today I have more than 300 boxes,” he told Gwadar Pro.
Beekeeper Sharif Zada while talking to Gwadar Pro. [Photo/Tahir Ali]
Honey obtained from the flowers of bair (jujube or Chinese date) is the priciest in the market. Jujube plants are found in abundance in the Dera Ismail Khan, Karak, Kohat and Nowshera districts of KP. When it is honey-harvesting season, beekeepers like Sharif Zada take his honey boxes to the southern district of KP. However, from June to August when it is off-season, they bring their bees to the warm weather of upper parts of the province.
“We migrate from one place to another to get seasonal flowers for honey; I am shifting my honey boxes to Karak,” he told Gwadar Pro while packing his boxes for shifting.
Beehives are being prepared for shifting to southern KP. [Photo/Tahir Ali]
In addition to jujube, bees obtain honey from oregano, Palusa (acacia modesta), kikar (acacia nilotica), sunflower peach and orange fragrant flowers found in different parts of KP.
Sharif Zada has employed three people to take care of around 300 beehives. However, his farming provides indirect jobs to many other people as well.
According to him, the majority of the beekeepers do not have direct access to honey markets located in Peshawar. Merchants come and buy honey from the beekeepers at a low price and intermediaries get most of the benefits.
“We have much expectation from China to help improve beekeeping in Pakistan,” Sharif Zada told Gwadar Pro and he added, “There should be exchange programs for the beekeeping experts and common beekeepers of both countries to share their experience with each other”.
Termites, ants and moths pose a great threat to bees and beehives. Some Chinese chemicals are quite effective against termites; however, their easy availability in the market is a problem for the beekeepers, according to him.
Pakistani beekeepers use old methods and old-style wooden boxes, which are not only cumbersome to move from one place to another, but at the same time, affect the honey yield. “To increase honey production, we need to adopt Chinese techniques and production modes,” Umar Khan, a beekeeper from Nowshera told Gwadar Pro.
Beekeepers in KP use old methods and techniques. [Photo/Tahir Ali]
Generally, Pakistani beekeepers do not get proper benefits from the by-products of honey like beeswax, jelly, polled and propolis. “There is a strong demand for bee milk, beeswax and propolis in Chinese markets and to have a share in these markets, we need proper training of our beekeepers to professionally collect the by-products,” Umar Khan added.
According to Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC), about 300,000 colonies of honeybees produce 7,500-metric ton honey annually. The climatic and the beekeeping flora of the country offer excellent opportunities for the expansion of beekeeping. The bee flora of the country can support 1,000,000 bee colonies.
The latest report of China-Pakistan Agriculture and Industrial Information Cooperation Platform (CAPIC) states if the Government of Pakistan intervened in beekeeping areas, developed the industry value chain, and connected the beekeepers with regional and international markets, honey production in the country could improve ten-fold.