Honey, a common item in Indian pantries, is seeing a fresh effort to boost quality, production standards, and overall demand. Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar announced that five large-scale Regional Honey Testing Labs and 100 Mini Honey Testing Labs are being set up in the country. Tomar highlighted the need for Indian honey to raise its standards for an international market behind the push.
Along with this, he also launched ‘Amul Honey’—a product of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd. with active cooperation from the National Bee Board. Amul Honey would be involved in producing high-quality honey with a special focus on the international market.
Quality checks for honey were an urgent necessity. Honey is the most adulterated food in the world. In December 2020, the Center for Science and Environment undertook a purity test of the honey available in the Indian market by brands like Dabur, Patanjali, Baidyanath and Zandu. All four of them failed the test, along with nine others. In their investigation, they uncovered that companies would purchase little honey from the market and mix it with sugar syrups from Chinese manufacturers—these syrups are designed such that they pass the quality checks by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
This ultimately hurt the farmers and beekeepers—in its report, the CSE notes that while the demand for honey surged after the pandemic, the price of raw honey had crashed.
Quality standards will assure good prices for beekeepers, who are receiving much support from the Centre as well. The National Beekeeping and Honey Mission (NBHM) was launched to promote beekeeping and generate livelihoods with a budgetary allocation of ₹500 crore.
Honey is also gaining importance as an export. In the international market, the US is a top importer of honey, whereas China dominates export. Fraught relations between the two countries are expected to boost export of Indian honey, which has been seeing steady growth.