Climate change and deforestation threaten Pakistan’s honey industry

PESHAWAR: The honey industry in Pakistan is grappling with the challenges posed by climate change. Deforestation and climate change have led to adverse effects on honey production and exports, resulting in a decline in the lucrative beekeeping business.

According to Sher Zaman, general secretary of the All-Pakistan Beekeeper Exporters and Honey Traders Association, climate change has disrupted the blooming period of flowers, which is crucial for the survival of bees. This has led to a reduction in the number of honeybee types from four to two. In addition, the devastating floods in 2022 further worsened the situation, causing the destruction of over 22,000 bee boxes and impacting 124 beekeepers and bee farms. The jujube tree, which is essential for honey production, has also been destroyed due to deforestation and flooding.

Zaman expressed concerns about the potential extinction of honeybees and emphasized the decline in honey exports from Pakistan. Previously, Pakistan exported 600 to 700 containers of honey in 2007, but this number has decreased to 200-300 containers due to low quality and beekeepers struggling with expenses. Honey production has also significantly declined, with only 2-7kg of honey being extracted from a box compared to 20-25kg in previous years.

Nausheen Barkat, the founder and CEO of Asqurr, the first women-led honey brand in Pakistan, acknowledged the untapped potential of the honey industry. She called for collaboration between the government and agriculture NGOs to harness this potential. Barkat emphasized the need for bee flora plantations to meet the high export demand for honey. She also proposed transporting small beekeepers to other provinces during harsh winters to ensure their survival.

Barkat noted the lack of proper labs and honey processing units in Gilgit-Baltistan, hindering the development of the beekeeping industry in the region. With the establishment of international standard labs and units, she believed that beekeepers could improve their living standards and fully utilize the natural resources available to them, leading to the thriving of the honey industry in Gilgit-Baltistan.

The Pakistan Business Council identified several constraints affecting domestic honey production, including habitat loss due to deforestation and climate change, insufficient training for beekeepers, inadequate quality testing infrastructure, and limited focus on value-added products. To overcome these challenges, the council suggested the establishment of beekeeper unions and cooperatives, adoption of modern farming practices, and the availability of accredited testing facilities to ensure the buying and selling of honey based on quality metrics.

Pakistan’s honey industry is facing a dilemma caused by climate change and deforestation. However, with concerted efforts from the government, agriculture NGOs, and industry stakeholders, there is a potential to revive and expand the honey industry, benefiting beekeepers and the economy as a whole.

Aziz Buneri
Aziz Buneri
Author is a senior journalist and working in the field of journalism since 2004. He covers Financial, Social, Political and regional issues for Pakistan today and Profit. He can reached at [email protected]

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