Amphan stings beekeeping business in Bengal

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PTI

Kolkata

At least 18,000 beekeepers in  Bengal have been affected by Cyclone Amphan, which struck a month ago, pulverising farms and bee colonies across seven districts of the state, and the total loss incurred could climb up to Rs 2 crore, an association of apiculturists said.

Tarun Halder, the general secretary of the West Bengal Beekeepers’ Association, said no financial assistance was doled out to the apiarists by the central or the state government so far, and many of them are finding it difficult to get back on their feet.

“We have around 18,000 beekeepers as members in seven districts, which have been largely devastated by Amphan. Bee colonies have been destroyed and the boxes totally damaged. The worst-affected are the ones living in North-24 Parganas, South-24 Parganas and Nadia. The farmers (beekeepers) there have lost their livelihood,” Halder said.

A preliminary assessment suggested that losses could mount up to Rs 14 lakh in each of the North- and South-24 Parganas districts. In Nadia, the amount could be anything above Rs 10 lakh, he said.

Other than these three districts, beekeepers in Murshidabad and Purba Medinipore have also suffered losses.

Bengal produces an annual 25,000MT of honey — 5,000MT alone come from the Sunderbans in South 24 Parganas.

In the northern part of the state, beekeeping is popular in Uttar Dinajpur, Dakshin Dinajpur
and Malda.

“We have been reeling under financial crisis since March, when the lockdown was imposed, as none of us could tend to the farms or sell the produce. The cyclone added to our woes. There is no proper market in Bengal to sell our products. We depend on private agencies for survival. As of now, beekeepers are in need of some financial aid to tide over this crisis,” he said.

Seeking help, the association has written to Khadi and Village Industries Commission.

“We have written to KVIC for immediate help… I’ve personally sent a mail to them giving them the details of the damages and the current situation. We are waiting for a reply,” Halder said.

The KVIC, under the Union MSME ministry, had been playing a significant role in protecting the pollinators and training people to become beekeepers.

State forest minister Rajib Banerjee, when contacted, said that the goverment is planning to purchase honey directly from the beekeepers and steps have been initiated in that direction.

“We have decided to purchase honey directly from the beekeepers. I hope this decision benefits them. We have already made progress in this matter,” Banerjee said. The association secretary, however, said no such approach has been made by the state so far.

“I haven’t heard of any such initiative. None of us was contacted by the government. Had it been so, some of us at least would’ve known,” Halder added.

Cyclone Amphan, which barrelled through Bengal on May 20, claimed around 100 lives and left behind a trail of destruction.