The honey bee is one of the most important species and is responsible for the production of about 70 per cent of global food through pollination (UN Environment Programme). The global market for honey is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5.2 per cent, from $9 billion in 2023 to $13 billion in 2031.

India, being the seventh largest honey producer, exports around 75,000 tonnes of natural honey to major destinations including the US and the UAE. About 14,000 beekeepers are registered on the Madhukranti portal of the National Bee Board, with more than 200 registered societies.

Despite its health benefits, per capita annual consumption of honey in India has significantly declined after the pandemic and remains at 10 gm compared to developed nations’ 3-4 kg.

From the growers’ perspective, low consumption and sluggish market growth are discouraging and pose significant marketing challenges.

The government recently imposed a minimum export price of $2 per kg, while according to recent USDA data, US imports Indian natural honey at around $1.1 per pound (same as MEP), which is comparatively lower than other international players.

Due to limited industry collaboration, beekeepers are often forced to sell in local markets at a price range of ₹100-110 per kg, depending on the season. Such prices are not encouraging.

The long-term revival of the honey industry requires a multifaceted marketing strategy. The organised Indian honey market has limited players, and there is significant potential for more players, especially start-ups and FPOs.

While some FPOs have started developing a honey value chain, they still need to refine their branding strategies.

Similar to the SARAS fair, the government should organise annual national-level flagship fair devoted to honey and associated products, bringing together buyers and sellers. This year, Maharashtra initiated a State-level honey fair, but there is a need for collaboration across States.

Furthermore, FPOs and start-ups should be encouraged to collaborate with industries such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, wine, etc., to provide consistent price support for growers. It is important to ensure a guaranteed price for growers at a minimum 40 per cent margin above the production cost.

Providing adequate compensation to growers would motivate them to diversify into innovative honey products and improve their livelihoods. To promote honey branding in international markets, efforts should be made to improve NMR testing, a prerequisite for exports.

India lacks adequate infrastructure to meet NMR testing requirements. On the occasion of World Bee Day (May 20), India must protect indigenous communities engaged in honey production, highlighting the local stories of honey growers and their unique products through product labelling.

To protect the product’s origin and ensure its authenticity, three honey products have been registered under the Geographical Indication tag, but more efforts are needed to enhance their market value.

The honey value chain should incorporate blockchain applications to connect beekeepers, buyers, quality testing labs, and aggregators, thereby creating a sustainable digital honey marketplace.

The writer is faculty at RPCAU, Pusa, Samastipur. Views expressed are personal