Agri Business

Sunderbans’ wild honey hunters eye GI tag

Rahul Wadke Mumbai | Updated on February 05, 2021

For 30-year-old Biswajeet Mondal, a third-generation honey hunter and fisherman from the Rajat Jubilee village in Sunderban, entering the dense mangrove forest infested with man-eating Bengal tigers for catching fish and searching for honey is the only source of livelihood for his family.

Mondal and his fellow members of the Mouli community take the name of Bono Devi, the local deity, and risk their lives for making a few thousand rupees.

The wild honey collected from the forest has a unique sharp taste and liquidly character. Local traders buy them for ₹200-250 per kg from the Moulis. For protecting the distinct character of the honey, Bee Basket Society, an NGO based out South 24 Parganas district, West Bengal, has filed an application for granting Geographical Indications (GI) tag with the Geographical Indications Registry.

The Sundearbans is the largest mangrove forests on earth and spread over 13 of the 29 development blocks of the South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal. It lies on the delta of the river Ganga, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers in the Bay of Bengal.

About 60 per cent of the Sunderbans is in Bangladesh and the rest in North and South 24 Parganas districts. Indian Sundarban is about 9,629 sq. km., of which, 4493 sq. km. is inhabited and the rest is reserve forest. This honey is largely collected from Canning, Basanti, Gosaba, Kultali, Mathurapur, Patharpratima, Namkhana, Sagar and Kakdwip area of South 24 Parganas district

Indian Sunderbans

Wild honey is extracted by local communities from both the countries. Therefore, it is important that the Indian Sunderban honey gets the tag. In India, honey retails when the honey reaches supermarkets and online stores, its price shoots up to at ₹65 for 500 for 700 gm. On a popular Bangladeshi e-commerce website, 500 gm of Sundarban honey is being sold for Taka 350 (₹ 300).For the last three years, Amit Godse, Founder, Bee Basket Society, has been working with the Mouli community to get better rates for the honey. Godse added that given the demand for the honey, local villagers have also started keeping beehive boxes, which has started yielding honey. The local production of honey harvested from wild areas and collected from beehive boxes has reached about 111 tonnes.

Products such as Darjeeling Tea, Nakshi Kantha handicraft and Santipore Saree from West Bengal have already received the GI tag.

Advocate Ganesh Hingmire, who has filed the GI application, said the distinctive flavour and taste of Sunderbans honey is because of the rare medicinal plants. Every year the honey hunters collect the wild honey from March to May, when fishing is prohibited in the forest.

Mondal adds that there are no jobs available in Sundarban area and the forest is the only source of livelihood. However, he wants his child not to pursue the ancestral profession of fisherman and honey hunter but get educated and join the service sector or set up his own business.

BusinessLine reached out to the Minister and Secretary of the Department of Sundarban Affairs seeking their views. But there was no response to the emails, text messages and phone calls.

Published on February 05, 2021

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