Demand for Bhutanese Honey Encourages Farmers To Take Up Bee-keeping
Bhutan’s organic honey is highly sought after for its fine quality.
By Nirmala Pokhrel | Kuensel
Bee-keeping is a thriving business in Bhutan
With about 25 farmers from Patshaling gewog in Tsirang taking up large-scale commercial bee-keeping, the business is thriving in the gewog.
Tshering Wangdi, a bee-keeper has more than 100 beehives (modern boxes) placed around his house and farm.
At the moment 15 boxes have bees. “It is off-season now and bees from other boxes have left because of the cold,” the farmer said.
He said that beekeeping is one of the easiest businesses one can do along with farming.
“There is little work but the return is amazing.”
Last year, he harvested 80 bottles (750ml) of honey. In the previous year, he harvested over 400 bottles.
Pure Honey from Bhutan
Image Source: www.bhutannatural.com
Bhutan’s organic honey is highly sought after for its fine quality. Unheated and unfiltered, the honey contains remnants of wax, pollen as well as propolis from the honeycomb. Therefore, it is not surprising for consumers to see honey crystallise as this process will only occur in pure, untreated raw honey.
Bee-keeping process in Bhutan
Honey is harvested sometime between November and December. He also said that the early onset of the cold season last year has affected the production.
Tshering Wangdi said that the production dropped last year because heavy rainfall shredded flowers, leaving less nectar for the bees.
Besides beekeeping, Tshering Wangdi also makes beehives. In the last six years, he has sold at least 500 hives for Nu 3,000 each. He also sells bee colonies.
Another farmer in Thakorling chiwog, Mon Bahadur Sunar, 51, has also tried beekeeping for the last eight years. Today, he has 35 beehives.
He said that he is interested in expanding his business even though beekeeping is an unpredictable business.
“It does not require time-to-time nurturing unlike growing vegetables or other forms of farming.”
Factors which bee-keeping are dependent on
Mon Bahadur said that the success of bee-keeping solely depends on the weather, rainfall and the flowers.
“The honey that comes to market from Tsirang is purely derived from the nectar of flowers found in the wild. It has high medicinal value.”
Another farmer, Gyalbo Dorji, 52, said that bee-keeping has been a tradition practised since his great-grandparents’ time.
“Back then it was just for household consumption.”
Demand for Bhutan’s honey is increasing
He said that with the increasing demand for honey, he began commercialising it. He has now installed 27 modern beehives (square boxes) and has 20 traditional hives.
He said that the modern hives provided by the government at a subsidised rate are of better quality.
“During harvesting, bees can be retained and there will be some honey left for them to continue whereas in the traditional hives, all the bees will fly away during harvest time.”
He said that he intends to replace his old hives so that more bee colonies can be retained.
“When the season is good, we harvest at least 10kg of honey from each modern beehive.”
This article first appeared in Kuensel and has been edited for the new Bhutan Times.