- Collectors extract honey from Kholsha, Goran and Bain flowers
- Revenue collected from honey and honeycombs extracted from the west zone stands at Tk21 lakh this year
- Honey and honeycombs collected from the Sundarbans in the 2019-20 fiscal year were 200.65 and 60.195 tonnes respectively
Wild honey and honeycombs collection from the Sundarbans remained unaffected during the pandemic-led countrywide shutdown. Honey hunters, locally known as "Mawalis", reaped 200 tonnes of the sweet liquid and 60 tonnes of honeycombs this year from the west range (Satkhira) of the mangrove forest.
Sundarbans honey collectors extract the natural liquid from Kholsha, Goran and Bain flowers to meet local demand. Revenue collected from honey and honeycombs extracted from the west zone stands at Tk21 lakh this year.
According to Sultan Ahmed, Satkhira range Burigoalini Forest Station Officer, honey and honeycombs collected from the Sundarbans in the 2019-20 fiscal year were 200.65 and 60.195 tonnes respectively. The government collected more than Tk21 lakh revenue from the two items during the year.
The official said April to mid-June is the honey collecting season in the mangrove forest. This year, 4,013 collectors entered the Sundarbans after taking permission from the forest department.
Satkhira Range Forest Officer Abul Hasan said there are about 50,000 people in the coastal area who depend on the forest for their livelihood. Of them, around 5,000 people collect honey from the Sundarbans.
Abul Hasan said there was no pandemic effect on honey collection as the honey collectors were allowed to enter the forest after ensuring health safety measures. Besides, the Mawalis did not face tiger attacks or any untoward incident this year.
In the meantime, the Mawalis said though they collect honey from the forest at risk to their lives, they do not have much of it for themselves in the end.
During the collection season, local lenders offer honey collectors "Dadon"-- an advance payment of money for supplying a particular amount of goods within a particular period. With the money, the honey collectors hire boats and manage other expenses during the collection.
Shyamnagar Mawali Abdur Rashid said when the honey collectors return from the forest, the lenders get their shares from the collection, in addition to buying the liquid gold at wholesale rates from the collectors.
The hunters sell the item at Tk300-380 per kg, depending on the variety and quality of the honey, to lenders who retail it at Tk700-800 per kg.
Shahinur Rahman is a honey trader who buys honey from collectors and sells it at Shyamnagar town. He explained how "Dadon" works.
"After taking the loan, usually ten Mawalis hire a boat and enter the forest. When they return, the collection is divided into 11 parts – ten for the hunters and one for the lender. Besides, the lender will buy the honey at a wholesale rate," he explained.
Satkhira agricultural marketing officer Saleh Md Abdullah said the lenders and traders sell the liquid gold at prices according to their wishes as there is no government fixed rate. He urged the government to fix prices so that Mawalis can get their fair shares.
Besides, he said some unscrupulous traders sell harvested honey – which is more available and less pricey -- in the name of Sundarbans honey. The official said the Bangladesh Standards & Testing Institution (BSTI) should chip in with standardization measures so that consumers do not get cheated.