When you go to any super shop to buy honey, all that you will see is foreign brands dominating the shelves.
The array of honey cans – almost all of which are the Indian Dabur Honey, the US Honey Bee Sweets and Anna's Honey and different Chinese brands. Customers too prefer those brands.
The only local brand found in the super shops is AP Honey, despite the presence of at least 4,000 beekeepers in Bangladesh, who are engaged in honey cultivation under the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC).
Annual demand of honey is 30,000 tonnes
The country has a demand for 30,000 tonnes of honey every year. Dabur, Bee Sweets Anna's and other foreign companies meet most of the demand, according to industry insiders.
The annual commercial cultivation of honey in the Sundarbans and in other parts of the country is 6,000 tonnes. But the local honey market has been stagnating as customers do not trust locally produced honey, sources added.
In the absence of proper branding, locally produced honey is being exported to India and other countries at low prices.
Shafiqul Islam, manager of Shwapno, a top retail chain shop, told The Business Standard, "People prefer branded honey to local non branded honey as there is an allegation against the latter of selling substandard product.
"We sell foreign honey as no big local brand has emerged in the market yet," he added.
- Local farmers produce 6,000 tonnes
- Some 4,000 beekeepers work under BSCIC
- Foreign brands Dabur, Bee Sweets Anna's dominate market
- Local brand AP's annual sales 500 tonnes
However, Mujibur Rahman, managing director of local brand Tropica Honey, disagreed.
He said, "Locally produced honey is absolutely pure. Its quality is no lower than Dabur Honey's. It is not getting popularity only for the lack of branding."
Commercial honey cultivation started in Bangladesh under the initiative of the BSCIC. In the last eight years, they trained up 6,000 honey cultivators. Additionally, the BSCIC provided them with loans at low interest rates for setting up hives for honey cultivation.
However, honey cultivators have to sell their produce to pharmaceutical companies and exporters at low prices as no big brand has developed locally yet.
For this reason, many farmers are unable to choose honey cultivation as a profession.
Khandakar Aminuzzaman, project director of the Development of Beekeeping through Modern Technology Project of BSCIC, said, "It has become a very difficult job to popularise honey produced by local farmers as buyers are loyal to the foreign brands. There is no other local brand except for AP.
"We have spoken to Pran, Brac and ACI in this regard. The ACI has already started buying honey from small cultivators on a small scale," he added.
Honey cultivators alleged that Dabur Honey buys honey from them at a low price and then sells it back to the Bangladeshi market at a higher price after processing it.
The BSCIC regularly arranges honey fairs to bring the people's trust on local honey.
From Sunday, a week-long honey fair has begun on the premises of the Motijheel BSCIC office. Through this fair, people will come to know about locally produced honey, said BSCIC officials.
Sources said that in the local market, the Tropica brand ranks right after AP Honey in terms of sales. AP Honey sells 500 tonnes of honey annually, whereas Tropica sells around 100 tonnes.
Nazmin Nahar, an official of AP Honey's marketing department, said, "Local people have a fondness for foreign brands. Therefore, we are unable to utilise our full capacity in honey production in a plant set up with modern machinery."
Md Shah Jahan, winners of several gold medals and proprietor of Adarsha Mou Chash Project, said, "Retail sales of honey is very time-consuming. So they have to sell the product to pharmaceutical companies at low prices. They also export to India."
They sell per maund of honey between Tk3,000 and Tk12, 000. Their production costs are almost similar to selling costs, he added.