Next time you make a trip to Mahabaleshwar, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Manghar, a village located 10 km from the hill station, to gain first-hand knowledge of honey production and the importance of honeybees in the environment.
The Maharashtra government has come up with an initiative to boost honey production, develop village-based tourism, and underline the role of honeybees in the food chain. Industries minister Subhash Desai will launch the ‘Madhache gaav’ or ‘village of honey’ project on May 16 at Manghar in Satara.
While Mahabaleshwar forms the nucleus of the apiary operations in the state, most of the households at Manghar are involved in this sector. Of the 1.25 lakh kg of honey produced in Maharashtra, around 35,000 kg is produced in and around the hill station.
There are plans to bring more villages under this scheme to increase honey production and tourism opportunities. Apart from creating employment for local communities, this will lead to environmental conservation and dispel misgivings about honeybees.
“The project will be launched at Manghar. There are plans to cover more villages, ”said Anshu Sinha, CEO, Maharashtra State Khadi and Village Industries Board (MSKVIB).
To add to the existing faunal diversity and to propagate flora for the bees, saplings of trees like jamun, litchi, cinnamon, mulberry and hirda have been planted.
Visitors will be shown the forest-to-fork journey of honey and the role of honeybees in the environment. They will get to see the honey production and processing chain from its collection to processing.
Bee boxes have been distributed to 80 of the 100 households in the village at a subsidized rate and a bee breeding center will be unveiled at the launch. Honey will be processed and sold to tourists under the village’s own brand. Other government departments like agriculture, forests, rural development, and tourism will also be roped in.
“We will guide and train villagers on the manufacture of byproducts like soap, shampoo and oil, which will provide them with a better income,” Sinha said.
The project, which includes a bee breeding center, distribution of bee boxes, honey sale counter, and information center, will cost ⁇50 lakh. Efforts will also be made to increase the number of honeybees.
“The idea is to make people understand the importance of honeybees in agriculture and ecology. Around 80% of the crops are pollinated by honeybees… Mahabaleshwar sees footfalls of around 25 lakh tourists annually. Even if 10% of them come to Manghar, it can transform the local economy and create awareness of these bees, ”an official said.
Boards will be put up in Mahabaleshwar to popularize the concept among tourists. Jingles will also be broadcast on the radio.
Maharashtra broadly has five major species of honeybees. Honeycombs of Apis Dorsata yield around 30kg to 40kg based on their size. Apis Cerana Indica (Sateri) honeybees are found in the Western Ghats and are reared by bee keepers. Apis Mellifera is an imported breed, which gives maximum honey through bee boxes at around 30 kg to 40 kg versus 15 kg to 20 kg from Sateri. Colonies of smaller Trigona bees produce around 10 gm to 20 gm of honey, which has medicinal properties. However, this stingless bee helps pollinate crops like mangoes in the Konkan. Apis Florea also yields less honey.
The MSKVIB collects around 10,000 kg of honey for its Madhuban brand. It purchases at ⁇400 per kg for organic honey and ⁇300 per kg for ordinary honey.
Along with the north-eastern states, Maharashtra is one of the major honey producing areas. The global apiculture market is estimated to register a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.3% during 2020-25, with Asia-Pacific as the dominant producer. The size of the Indian apiculture market is expected to reach ⁇33,128 million by 2024, expanding at a CAGR of nearly 12% by 2024. India is the sixth major natural honey-exporting country.