Commercial honey cultivation in Shariatpur district is rising day by day. Employment opportunities have also been created for many unemployed youths centring honey farming.
Besides, productions of black cumin, coriander and mustard have increased by 15 to 20 percent due to bee pollination.
Apart from three bee farms of Shariatpur, 75 beekeepers from other parts of the country have come to the district for collecting honey this year.
According to the Shariatpur Department of Agricultural Extension, 29 more bee farms have come to Shariatpur this year than that of last year.
Most of the beekeepers are from Satkhira, Jamalpur, Sirajganj and Thakurgaon.
On the other hand, the number of bee farms owned by locals in Shariatpur has increased to three from one this year. People of the district are getting interested in bee cultivation gradually.
Ismail Hossain of Shariatpur's Damurda upazila lost his job at a clothing store during the pandemic last year. At that time, he watched videos on bee farming on YouTube and became interested in it. Then he contacted Shatkhira's Mollah Bee Farm, which came to Shariatpur for collecting honey, for a job there. He got the job and since December last year, he has been working for them.
Ismail has a plan to set up a bee farm next year. For this, he is contacting the upazila agriculture office to take training on it.
Towhid Mia, a resident of Charvaga village in Shariatpur's Vedorganj upazila, also wants to set up a bee farm being motivated by the bee farms, which collect honey from his fields of coriander and black cumin.
He is also contacting the upazila agriculture office to take training on bee cultivation.
Beekeepers started to come to Shariatpur for commercial honey cultivation towards 2009.
In 2020, there were 7,760 beehives in 49 farms whereas in 2021, 12,580 bee boxes have been installed in 78 farms.
Last year, 42 tonnes of honey was collected from these bee farms. The agriculture department estimates that 80 tonnes of honey will be collected this year.
In December, January and February, beekeepers stay in Shariatpur to collect honey. During the period, they collect honey from mustard, coriander and black cumin crops and then go to other regions to collect honey from litchi flowers.
Beekeepers place rows of bee boxes near the fields of mustard, coriander and black cumin crops. Each box contains several thousands of worker bees, including one queen bee.
Beekeepers collect honey from the boxes every 10 to 15 days with the help of extractors. It is then stored in containers of different sizes.
Zahid Hasan, proprietor of Eva Moukhamar (Bee Farm) in Shariatpur Sadar upazila, said, "The demand for honey has multiplied this year due to Covid-19. People are now taking honey regularly. Sales are much better. Earlier, mustard honey was sold at Tk200-Tk250 per kilogramme but now I sell it at up to Tk350 per kg. Coriander honey was sold at Tk400 per kg but now I am selling it at Tk450-Tk500. Black cumin honey was sold at Tk450 and now it is sold at Tk600 per kg. All these are wholesale rates. In the retail market, the prices are at least Tk200 more."
He usually sells honey to different companies in the country. Now he is going to export it to Bangladeshi expatriates in Qatar, Dubai and Saudi Arabia.
Samiul Mikdad, owner of a company called Bee Honey in Rajshahi, comes to Shariatpur every year to buy honey from the bee farms.
"Coriander and black cumin honey of Shariatpur are very popular. The quality is also good. Every year I buy five to six tonnes of honey from this region. Then we bottle the honey after reducing the excess water in it with the help of an auto-processing plant. Al Shifa of Saudi Arabia and Dabur Company of India buy honey from Bangladesh. Besides, Ayurvedia Pharmacy (AP) of Bangladesh also buys a lot of honey," said Samiul.
Demand for honey had increased due to Covid-19 this year and that was why the prices had also increased, he added.
Md Jamal Hossain, agriculture officer of Shariatpur's Jajira upazila, said farmers did not allow beekeepers to sit next to their crop fields before. The farmers had a misconception that it would reduce their crop productions, he said.
"Through the efforts of the Department of Agriculture, we have been able to convince the farmers that crops' production does not decrease by bee cultivation. Rather it increases. Now the farmers have got the proof of it. The crops' production has increased up to 20 percent. As a result, beekeeping as well as the production of spices and oilseeds has increased," said Jamal.
Md Parvez Hasan, deputy commissioner of Shariatpur, said a big scope for commercial honey cultivation had been created in Shariatpur.
Beekeeping was on the rise due to extensive cultivation of mustard, coriander and black cumin in the region, he said.
"Various initiatives have been taken by the government to distribute the honey produced in this district all over the country and abroad. Entrepreneurs from different parts of the country will come to Shariatpur to buy honey. They will sell it to the people across the country as well as export it abroad through their e-commerce sites. Thus more people will know about Shariatpur's honey and farmers will get fair prices," said the deputy commissioner.