Pakistan yet to have its own honey brand in world market: WealthPK

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has yet to carve a niche in the international honey market as one of the major producers and exporters, though the country has a conducive environment and diverse flora to produce good quality honey.

Currently, there are around 27,000 beekeepers in Pakistan, managing 1.1 million bee colonies and producing approximately 15,000 metric tons of honey, which makes the country the 20th largest honey producer in the world.

As for now, large-scale honey production is not practised in Pakistan. It is produced on a small scale for household consumption and for sale to the local communities by a large segment of the beekeeping community. Only a few medium-sized private sector companies sell honey under different brand names in major cities. Pakistan’s leading local and multinational food processing firms have yet to venture into this market.

The honey varieties produced in Pakistan are Jujuba (Bair), Acacia modesta (Phulai), Acacia nilotika (Kikar), Oregano (Sperkai), Peach blossom (Shaftalo), Orange blossom, Sun-flower, Russian olive, Clover, Eucalyptus, and Garanda.

According to experts from the National Agricultural Research Council (NARC) and Honeybee Research Institute (HBRI), Pakistan produces three distinct categories of honey. About 53 percent of honey comes from the Acacia variety and 40 percent from Sidr, while around 7 percent comes from other varieties like citrus, Russian olive, Clover, Granada, and Jujuba (Bair or Sidr). The Middle Eastern markets prefer the Sidr due to its flavor, color, and crystallization properties.

Talking to WealthPK, Nausheen Barkat, Founder and CEO of Asqurr, a Gilgit-based honey brand, said they were producing three categories – Robinia Honey, Russian Olive Honey and Herbal Honey – and supply them all over Pakistan.

Asked what Asqurr had achieved so far, she said, ‘’We are so blessed in getting so much recognition nationwide in a very short span of time. We have won three competitions, which I never thought of. Our venture has been interviewed by all the leading national TV channels’’.

“We have collaborated with the Turkish government for the uplift of women beekeepers in Gilgit-Baltistan. This is just the beginning, great is yet to come,’’ she added.

Nausheen said there is a lot of potential in the honey business. If the government and NGOs working in agriculture can collaborate, there will be a lot of demand for honey export, she added.

Mentioning the problems facing the honey sector, she said bee flora was different from other flora. So, there’s a need for plantation of bee flora.
“There are harsh winters in GB which make it impossible for bees to produce honey and even their existence becomes in danger. So, the government can arrange a means of transport for the small beekeepers to move to other provinces in winters.’’

Moreover, she said that there was no proper lab or honey processing unit in Gilgit-Baltistan.

“If we are provided with a lab and unit of international standard, we can create a difference in the living standard of beekeepers. And also, we can take the maximum benefit from the available natural resources,’’ she remarked.

The honey sector faces a plethora of problems, including global warming and deforestation, poor pre and post-harvest practices, lack of training for farmers, improper storage of honey, and little knowledge of marketing pricing and packaging. All these factors have hindered the local players from competing in the international market.

Despite all these problems, this sector still has the potential to grab the top position in the international market. By using appropriate tools and advanced techniques in the production procedure, honey’s yield and quality could be improved. Likewise, upgrading quality testing labs will allow the country to produce honey of international quality and standard, eventually increasing its exports.

There is also a need to improve access to new markets worldwide. This can be achieved by doing multiple studies on varieties of honey demanded by different countries, participating in international trade shows, and presenting the product to the international community.