Honey adulteration: ‘Centre should ban import of high fructose syrup’

The recent reports of widespread honey adulteration has shaken the consumer confidence and the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), which is playing a major role in promoting apiculture, feels that besides hampering consumer interests, such instances impact the livelihoods of farmers and tribal bee keepers. In an interview with BusinessLine, KVIC’s Chairman, Vinai Kumar Saxena, calls for strict action against adulteration and urges government to ban imports of High Fructose Syrup. Excerpts:

Amidst reports of adulteration by some major honey brands, what measures do you think should be taken to maintain consumer’s trust?

KVIC has always emphasized on maintaining the purity of honey and has retained the quality produced by its units which is 100{bcdc0d62f3e776dc94790ed5d1b431758068d4852e7f370e2bcf45b6c3b9404d} natural and contains no artificial substance. While these reports are alarming, it is worth mentioning that none of the Khadi’s honey brands has been found to be adulterated. This is crucial so as to retain the trust of the consumers on genuine Khadi products.

KVIC has requested to Centre to ban import of High Fructose Syrup or impose a hefty import duty so as to put a check on this malpractice. A ban on the import of these syrup from China will deter the private companies from honey adulteration. Adulterated honey is cheaper but poses a health hazard to the public.

Do you think there is a need for a framework for mandatory disclosure of the source of the honey sold by companies?

In view of these reports, there is an immediate need for stricter regulations to prevent adulteration of honey which, in turn, will also ensure better price for beekeepers who are mostly farmers and the Adivasis. The Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has already prescribed a number of checks on purity of honey but they have proven ineffective. Accordingly, stricter checks like the globally accepted Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (NMR) should also be made mandatory.

How about a tracing mechanism of bee keepers with use of technology?

Many technological interventions can be possible. There were efforts to use geo-tagging also. But there are practical challenges to implement such technologies. KVIC gives 10 boxes to each bee keeper. And these companies purchase in tonnes. So it is not possible to trace each producer. Also, many of the bee keepers sell on their own locally. Practically it is difficult to trace them.

How is KVIC’s honey bee cultivation programme growing?

In September, 2017 Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked-off the ‘Sweet Revolution’ aiming to capitalise on India’s honey production capabilities. KVIC launched its Honey Mission and within past three years, the activity has spread across India from high altitude areas of Jammu & Kashmir to southern states like Kerala and from Tripura. KVIC is targeting farmers, beekeepers, Adivasis, unemployed youth who are trained and provided bee boxes and other equipment.

Honey Mission has been very successful in Pulwama and Kupwara in J&K where high altitude honey is being produced on a large scale. In 2018, KVIC created a world record by distributing 2330 bee boxes on a single day in Kupwara (J&K) in association with the Indian Army. Before this, 1000 bee boxes were distributed on a single day to the Mishing Tribe in Kaziranga in Assam.

How remunerative is bee keeping?

A bee keeper with 10 boxes, can comfortably get additional income Rs 50,000. Beekeeping requires no expenditure and physical work as the entire work is done by the bees. It is, therefore, a tested tool of increasing the income of bee keepers. Besides honey all other bee products such as bee wax, bee pollen, propolis, royal jelly and bee venom fetch good income to the beekeepers as they are at premium. KVIC also encourages beekeepers to produce high altitude honey and other unifloral honey that sell at a higher price in the market. The Honey Mission is being implemented on cluster mode where KVIC provide complete hand holding to beekeepers – right from training to honey extraction, bottling, labelling and marketing of honey in the markets. Hence, beekeeping is remunerative and a profitable proposition for beekeepers. In just 2 years since its launch, 2450 bee boxes were distributed by KVIC in Banaskantha district alone from which 19,500 kilograms of finest honey was extracted and sold to the Banas Dairy by the farmers.