Bee keeping flourishes in Pakistan with $6m in honey exports to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE

Around $6 million in foreign exchange is earned annually via honey exports to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Kuwait.

Image result for honeyCommercial beekeeping is fast becoming a thriving business in Pakistan’s rural areas.

The industry provides new job opportunities to thousands of men and women and helps the country earn foreign exchange through exports, mainly to Middle Eastern countries.

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According to the government’s Honeybee Research Institute (HBRI) in Islamabad (HBRI), Pakistan currently produces around 7,500 metric tons of honey annually, with more than 8,000 beekeepers rearing exotic species in one million beehives.

Honeybee Research Institute (HBRI) in Islamabad. (Social Media)

Around $6 million in foreign exchange is earned annually via honey exports to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Kuwait.

In December last year, the Prime Minister, Imran Khan, launched the “Billion Tree Honey Initiative” to increase honey production to 70,000 metric tons in a year.

The government estimates the project will help generate around 43 billion rupees ($268 million) for the economy and provide about 87,000 green jobs.

Under the program, the authorities have pledged to boost the plantation of specific trees and flora to improve the quality and production of honey and grant interest-free loans to traders.

Raza Khan, the President of the All Pakistan Beekeepers Trade & Exporters Association, said Pakistan was producing “hundred percent organic” honey via modern bee farming.

He also stated that honey’s demand was increasing, particularly in Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait.

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According to the Honeybee Research Institute, n the financial year 2018-2019, Pakistan exported honey worth 966 million rupees ($5.8 million), about 260 million rupees more than the year before.

Industry insiders predict the numbers will keep going up as the South Asian country’s beekeepers benefit from its ongoing push to reforest the land under its “10 Billion Tree Tsunami” project, launched in 2018.

Globally, there has been a drastic decrease in bee numbers, mainly due to intensive agriculture, pesticide use, and climate change, environmentalists say.

Bees in a hive in Chawkal on February 7, 2021. (Arab News / Aamir Saeed)

In Pakistan, experts say honey production can increase only if the authorities take strict measures to curb deforestation and pesticide use in agriculture.

Noor Islam, a scientific officer at the HBRI, said pesticide and antibiotics residue in honey was also a major obstacle in its export to Europe and the United States.

“We do not have the capacity and tools to gauge pesticide residue in our honey, and this has limited our exports to the Middle Eastern countries only,” Noor told Arab News.

“Beekeeping is a profitable business, yet it still requires the government’s patronage and support to compete in the international market.”

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