Honey producers in Chalanbeel, the vast swathes of wetland in the northern region, are being forced to sell their farm produce at throwaway prices, beekeepers have alleged.
They are struggling to recover costs involved in commercial beekeeping at a time when local producers are trying to compete with foreign brands in the domestic market.
Chalanbeel area accounts for about 20 per cent of the country’s honey output and the winter is the main season for collecting honey, sourced mostly from mustard oil seed flowers.
“The beekeepers are worried about getting fair price in the current situation,” said Jahangir Alam, President of Pabna Beekeepers Cooperative Society and President of North Bengal Beekeepers' Association.
He blamed a ‘syndicate of honey traders’ for the price uncertainty and has sought immediate measures to ensure that honey growers can do sustainable business.
Though the price is not formally fixed as yet, honey is selling in the local market at Tk 200-Tk300 a kilogram.
In the metropolitan areas, the minimum price of a kg locally produced honey is Tk 700 while each kg foreign brand honey costs more than Tk 1200.
Honey produced locally and consumed within the shortest possible time is believed to be better for health. Despite increasing domestic demand, certain amount of honey is allegedly smuggled out of the country.
According to beekeepers, about 1,500 tonnes of ‘high quality’ honey is expected to be produced from the mustard field in Chalanbeel area this season, if the weather remains clement.
Already, the bee farmers are seen busy collecting honey from early morning till evening. Many of them try to use this season for save some cash, local people say.
Every year, in the month of Poush (December-January), the fields of Chatmohar, Bhangura, Faridpur, Baraigram, Gurudaspur, Tarash, Singra, western part of Ullapara and the surrounding areas are covered with yellow mustard flowers.
Beekeepers from different parts of Sirajganj, Pabna, Natore, Satkhira, Khulna, Bagerhat, Narail, Gazipur, Rangpur, Dinajpur, Chapainawabganj, Panchagarh, Thakurgaon, and Nilphamari come to the vast Chalanbeel to collect mustard flower honey, considered effective to address cold and cold-related disease.
They place bee boxes in and around the mustard fields and collect honey every few days.
A beekeeper from Pabna, Abdus Sobhan said he has 45 bee boxes and already started collecting honey. He hopes he can make some money if the weather is favourable. However, fair price is a concern for him.
Farmers have cultivated mustard oil seed on 70,000 hectares of land in Chalanbeel this year, according to the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), Pabna office.
And about 1,000 farmers will collect honey in different fields of Chalanbeel, said deputy director of DAE Md Abdul Kader.