Honey bees are critically important to agricultural production across the world, but due to environmental threats and global warming, they have become as threatening as ever. According to experts, honey production is decreasing day by day in Pakistan due to human activities, carbon pollution and human-induced stressors.
By Rao M. Sajjad Sharif and Shahid Majeed
Habitat and biodiversity changes, coupled with the increasing use of chemicals and pesticides, have led to a sharp decline in bee populations in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region. According to the Pakistan Beekeepers Association (PBA), there are 35,000 bee farms in Pakistan, but only 10,500 of them have been registered with the Pakistan Beekeepers Association (PBA) that meet its criteria. .
The UNDP estimated that Pakistan loses more rupees. 6 billion each year because of climate problems. This is far more than the Rs. 1 billion lost annually due to terrorism. After the 2014 Peshawar Military School public school attack that killed 144 children, the Pakistani government restricted the influx of refugees, especially from Afghanistan. According to Ghafar, a drop in immigration has had a disastrous impact on honey production in Pakistan. The absence of visas and work permits limits honey imports. “A proper work permit should be issued (the refugee honey trade) for the survival of the industry.” Consequently, honey prices have skyrocketed in Pakistan in recent years. Wild honey, usually available between 1,400 and 1,600 PKR per kilo, now sells for between 2,200 and 2,600 PKR. Previously, farm honey prices ranged between PKR 800 and 1,200 per kilo, but now they range between PKR 1,400 and 1,800 per kilo.
According to a 2016 report, 20% of honey is lost each year due to untrained beekeepers and rapid deforestation in this region, contributing to low production and ultimately skyrocketing prices in Pakistan. A scientist from the National Agriculture Research Center (NARC) and the Honey Bee Research Institute (HBRI) said that despite producing top quality honey in the world, Pakistan stands at 19and world position in terms of production. Each year, Pakistan produces 300,000 metric tons of honey, while China is the largest honey exporter in the world. The provincial government of Pakistan is trying to promote honey products and this industry by making sales of queen bees tax free.
After 2014, deteriorating environmental conditions killed bees and affected honey production. An average Pakistani hive produces 10-15 kilograms of honey per season. In comparison, Australian bees produce 25-30 kg. Climate change, which has already affected Pakistan in the form of increasing floods, unseasonable rains and extreme temperatures, poses a significant threat to the bee sector. The Hashoo-Foundation in Pakistan, which works in the Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan regions of Pakistan, confirms that honey production has declined by up to 40% due to major environmental changes in recent years. Mr. Kamaluddin, the director of the project, says that since 90% of plants and crops depend on insects to pollinate and reproduce, the decline in the number of bees also impacts agricultural production, as well as honey production.
In Pakistan, four species of honey bees that contribute to honey production, seed dispersal and crop pollination. There are three species of honey bees (Apis florae, Apisdorsata and Apiscerana) which are indigenous and considered the native species of Pakistan. The fourth species (Apis mellifera) migrated from Russia and Australia in 1979, improving fruit and vegetable production in parts of Pakistan. But now experts say climate change and pesticide pollution are seriously threatening beekeeping and the production of honey, one of Pakistan’s most agricultural products. Unless the authorities take action to protect bees and combat global warming, Pakistani agriculture will also be seriously threatened.