By: M. W. Qasemi
Since the last few years of economic beef-up in Afghanistan, apiculture, as one of the important agricultural branch, has turned common practices in many of the country’s provinces.
Helmand in the south, is one of the provinces, where honey producers said over 16 metric tons of honey has so far been produced during the ongoing year.
While, honey has limited market in Afghanistan the produce is mostly exported to Pakistan and India, while, farmers also sell honey at their farm gate to those household in the community or the contractors coming from the centre and provinces.
Tens of bee-keeping farms are now operating in the Helmand province; once a hotbed for the Taliban hardliners and the core for poppy-opium production in Afghanistan southern zone.
“Around 400 bee-keeping farms are created in the Helmand provincial capital city, Lashkargah and the nearby districts where over 16 tons of honey have been produced this ongoing year, showing 10 percent increase compared to last year,” Rafiullah Qalam, the planning and program officer of Helmand Agriculture Department said.
Qalam said Helmand honey was currently sold only in local markets but efforts were on for selling it in international markets as well.
The CARD-F or the Comprehensive Agriculture and Rural Development-Facility (CARD-F) which is one of the key agricultural and rural development programs has created up to 150 farms, while the provincial agriculture department has built up to 200 beekeeping farms, with over 50 farms more have been built, since the beginning of this year, in the province.
Beekeepers, in the province, look delighted to collect high amount of honey and calling it a good alternative to poppy turning the province into the militants’ activity center.
“We collect honey three or four times a year, but there is lack of market for the product and that is the reason we keep it for one more year,” he said.
Currently a kilogram of good quality honey is sold for 500 Afghanis (some 6 U.S. dollar) in Helmand province.
He said 16 metric tons of honey was produced from the bee farms this year which he added was increased by 10 percent compared to the last year.
Most farmers are currently busy on beekeeping and it is a good alternative to growing poppy.
Nematullah Hussaini, the head of Helmand Beekeeping Union complained about lack of wholesale and official honey markets in Lashkargah, where customers think they are buying fake honey. “A wholesale center should be created locally and other provinces and the honey-sellers should be given official work license,” he said pointing to the officials.
Abdul Khaliq, an apiculturist busy in beekeeping on his land, said beekeeping, with low expenses was very fruitful. “The affordable bee-hives could be placed everywhere, troubling no one and giving high outcomes, and most importantly could be a good alternative to poppy.”
Afghanistan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) said last year that his country had the capacity of producing up to 11,000 tons of honey annually.
In 2018, Nasir Ahmad Durani, talking in a ceremony marking World Honey Bee Day, said that 214,000 bee boxes have currently been put for collecting honey in 32 provinces of the country.
Currently a kilogram of good quality honey is sold for 500 Afghanis (some 6.5 U.S. dollar.) in Helmand and the adjacent provinces.