Pakistan's honey products attract Chinese enterprises
Talking of honey, Pakistani people are proud of their products for their superior quality and diversified categories, especially when compared with those from New Zealand and the Middle East. But Pakistani honey is also faced with such issues as insufficient yields and low prices. As China is the world’s largest producer and exporter of honey, there is much to explore in terms of Pak-China cooperation in this regard. To this end, journalists from China Economic Net dive into the honey industry of both countries to seek possible paths for honey cooperation. The two parts of the report will focus on honey production and price respectively.
Various kinds of honey sold at Tarnab Honey market in Peshawar in Peshawar Pakistan. (Photo/ China Economic Net)
Pakistan has 10 to 12 main varieties of honey, but its per capita honey production is not as impressive. Statistics of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) shows that 11.7kg of honey was produced in 2019 by each Pakistani beekeeper on average, whereas the world average was 20.6kg.
There is huge potential for Pakistani honey production to increase. A statement from Pakistani Prime Minister’s Office said modern production techniques and standardized production processes could lead to an annual honey production of 70,000 tonnes, more than nine times the current domestic production of 7,500 tonnes.
Nectariferous plant: victim of pesticides
One of the reasons for the production bottleneck is nectariferous plant.
As per the analysis of Associate Professor Nasreen Muzaffar from the Bee Garden, Department of Zoology, Punjab University, Lahore, pesticide intoxication among bees is the biggest restraining factor. “Bees gather honey when oranges are in bloom. If farmers spray pesticides on the plants, they can kill bees and impair bee populations and honey production.”
Bee farm near Punjab, Pakistan. (Photo/ China Economic Net)
In addition, Pakistani farmers’ insufficient understanding of crop pollination by bees undermines nectar production. In some areas, bees are believed to have such a bad effect on crops that some farmers even stopped beekeepers from entering orchards, Muhammad Azeem Khan noted.
China Bee Product Safety and Standardization Demonstration Base. (Photo provided by Beijing Aojinda Bee Products Cooperative)
As the world’s largest beekeeper in terms of beekeeping quantity and honey production, how did China solve this problem? In Miyun district, Beijing, for example, Li Dingshun, president of the Beijing Aojinda Bee Products Cooperative, told Economic Daily-China Economic Net that beekeeping has enabled a virtuous cycle of improved environmental and increased crop production. In the past 60 years, the District has been growing nectar plants, realizing 74 percent of forest coverage, and has quit other polluting animal husbandry, he said. “To prevent bees from dying from pesticides, fruit and vegetable growers are not encouraged to use pesticides, and nectar plants grow better with bee pollination.”
Dr. Muhammad Azeem Khan agrees that many people around the world employ beekeepers to increase crop yields, and we need to change the perception of Pakistani farmers through the media.”
Beekeeping technology: Chinese enterprises willing to share automatic honey production line
Lack of modern technology is another disadvantage of Pakistani beekeeping industry.
In Nasreen Muzaffar’s opinion, now that Pakistan has imported anti-mite drugs from China, advanced technologies such as high yield beekeeping should also be introduced. In response, Li Dingshun expressed his willingness to share, “If opportunity presents, we are ready to provide technology in production and processing, including intelligent apiculture management platform. A fully automated honey production line has been utilized in his farm. “Its main advantage is to improve the processing amount of honey, reduce personnel contact, avoid pollution by bacteria, microorganisms, etc.”
Honey filling in the automatic honey production line. (Photo/ Provided by Beijing Aojinda Bee Products Cooperative)
Intelligent Apiculture Management Platform refers to the Internet of Things and monitoring system in the bee farm, performing 24-hour monitoring of PM2.5, negative oxygen ions, rainfall, light, etc. It can also detect whether the honey is normal or not. “we are developing smart beehives. If the bees contract any disease, keepers need to open the hive frequently every day, to the distaste of the bees. With the far-infrared monitoring or camera, we can judge the health condition of the bees by the various sounds they make, avoid frequent disturbance, and reduce labor intensity. We can also add functions such as automatic weighing”, introduced Li.
Intelligent apiculture monitoring in Miyun. (Photo/ Provided by Beijing Aojinda Bee Products Cooperative)
Beekeepers management: 20% increase of income with cooperative mode
In addition to nectariferous plants and beekeeping techniques, the management of beekeepers is also an important step to enhance honey production.
“Farmers who join cooperatives earn 20 percent more than those who don’t.” Li said. Before the establishment of cooperatives, beekeepers operated alone in a small scale and with uncompetitive prices. The cooperative can purchase means of production in batches and at a low price, and then uniformly recover products like honey and royal jelly from the beekeepers at a price not lower than the market price for further production, processing and sales. Thus, beekeepers will get benefit both from selling honey and and from the cooperative.
In addition to elevated income, cooperatives also make it easier for beekeepers to raise bees. “Bees can get sick, but it’s hard to get medicine for them. It takes 7 or 8 days from the time the bees are found to be sick to the time the medicine is paid and mailed. Bees may die of illness by the time the medicine arrives. Every year the cooperative purchases common bee medicines in advance, which are available to beekeepers at any time. (Written by Chen Jiaqi, Shi Yu, Guo Caiping, Translated by Wang Kai)
Muhammad Waseem, Usman Umer, and Ji Jing also contributed to the article. The Pakistani honey photos were taken by Liaqat Mayo, Jawad Ahmad, Nadeem Ashraf, Muhammad Ashraf, and Babar Shahzad.