April is the month of harvesting honey from the Sundarbans but honey hunters and the Forest Department said the amount of honey available this year is less than previous years due to a lack of rain.
The honey harvest season in the Sundarbans starts in April and continues till June. Honey is collected from the flowers of Khalisha, Bain, Garon and Kewra in the mangrove forest.
According to the Khulna Divisional Forest Office, 1,500 honey hunters went to the Sundarbans with 396 boat licence certificates from the four forest stations of Burigowalini, Kadamtala, Kaikhali and Kobadak in the Sundarbans Satkhira Range.
Since the harvest began on 1 April, 1,394 quintals of honey and 418.20 quintals of wax were collected in 25 days from the mangrove forest and revenue collection has been Tk14,63,700.
In FY20, 4,013 people went to the Sundarbans with 573 boat licence certificates. As much as 2,006.5 quintals of honey and 601.95 quintals of wax were collected from the Sundarbans. The revenue collected from honey and beeswax was Tk21,06,825.
Shahidul Islam, a forester from Gabura, a coastal union of the Sundarbans in Satkhira, goes to the Sundarbans every year to collect honey. He said due to the lack of rain, there is very little honey in the beehives this year.
Another honey hunter Shahidul Islam went to the Sundarbans on 1 April in a boat with a group of 10 honey hunters. They got only 35kg of Garon flower honey, which they have sold at Tk25,000 – Tk700 per kg.
"Each of us got only Tk2,500 but we spent Tk15,000. It cost Tk1.5 lakh to hire the boat. There is very little honey in the forest this year," he said.
Mahbub Ghazi, a honey hunter from Sora village in the Gabura union, said, "We collect honey risking our lives as there are tigers, snakes and crocodiles in the Sundarbans. Yet, our capital has not returned because there is no honey in the flower as there is no rain."
Tohidul Islam, a honey trader from Burigowalini union, supplies honey to many honey retailers and a fast-food company in the capital.
He said, "This year, I have sent more than 100 honey hunters in 10 boats to the forest to collect honey for Tk33 lakh but could not earn even Tk10 lakh. There is little honey in the forest. Last year, 150 maunds of honey were collected whereas this year I have got only 50 maunds."
He added that if it does not rain and the amount of honey does increase this year, I will incur huge losses.
Sultan Ahmed, Burigowalini Forest Station Officer of the Sundarbans Satkhira Range, said all the honey hunters returning from the forest are complaining that there is no honey in the forest this year. The crisis is mainly due to the lack of rain.
In the first phase this April, 148 BLCs were issued and 1,076 honey hunters went to the Sundarbans to collect honey. As many as 538 quintals of honey have been collected so far worth Tk4,03,500 lakh. Besides, 161.40 quintals of wax have been collected worth Tk1,61,400, he added.
Khulna Divisional Forest Officer Dr Abu Naser Mohsani Hossain said, "Bees are not getting food as there is no rain and I saw bees inside the forest eating water. When it rains, the flowers have honey and the bees eat the honey and collect it in beehives."