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Farmers to cultivate bees for sweet profit

- Dispur to implement project with assistance from Assam Agriculture University to provide training

Nagaon, March 10: In a first-of-its-kind effort in the Northeast, as many as 1,500 farmers of Assam will be provided assistance and technical support for high-yielding bee cultivation.

Each of these farmers would get training, one unit (10 colonies in a unit) of western honey bee (Apis mellifera), box to preserve, sophisticated machines for extraction and finally support to bring the products to market.

Mellifera bees are a high-yielding bee variety of Italy and Germany. Their cultivation started in India initially in Himachal Pradesh and later spread to other states like Punjab and Bihar.

Dispur plans to implement the scheme under the agriculture department’s horticulture mission.

A detailed apiculture plan has been prepared. “We have submitted our masterplan before the ministry and the latter has agreed to provide financial assistance this financial year. If everything goes well, the bees would reach the farmers by April this year,” said agriculture assistant director Manoranjan Das.

Das said Assam Agriculture University will back the entire project and work like seed collection, farmers’ training and other relevant matters will be entrusted to it.

Carana, Borseta and Flouria are the three bee varieties found in eastern India. The first is domestic and farmers of the Northeast use that variety, the second and third are wild and found in forests of the region.

Movement of bees is usually located in mustard, mango, litchi plantations and gardens.

“A farmer can get 8kg-10kg bees from a colony of Carana, but from scientific cultivation of Mellifera bees, he could get up to 30kg-35kg in a year,” said AAU scientist Ataur Rahman.

The university has already completed experimental cultivation of Mellifera bees in Jorhat that yielded favourable results. “These bees can get some diseases and for that farmers need to be alert. The returns could be many times higher if it is taken care of,” Rahman said.

Apiculture is not yet popular among farmers of the state and the entire Northeast depends on other parts of the country for honey.

“There is potential in the region as this is a horticulture belt. We hope proper awareness and fruitful training would encourage farmers to opt for this as income-generating activity,” said a high-level source in the agriculture department.

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