The production of honey in Pakistan has increased by 70% thanks to the plantation of hundreds of thousands of trees under Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Billion Tree project.
The honey production initiative in Changa Manga was started in 2016 when beehives were auctioned for Rs. 729,000.
According to the Forest Department’s officials, the complete implementation of the project may increase the amount of auction money from Changa Manga to Rs. 10 million. Shahid Tabassum, a Forest officer, mentioned that 85% of the trees have been planted in the past few years which has led to a remarkable increase in the number of bees.
As for now, there are hundreds of beehives in the Changa Manga forest, he said, highlighting the increase in income from the honey auction.
In the financial year 2016-17, the honey was auctioned for Rs 729,000 and in 2017-18 for Rs1.15 million. Similarly, in 2018-19, the honey was auctioned for Rs 1.252 million, while during the current financial year the auction fetched Rs 1.3 million.
Locals of the forest describe how ruthless deforestation, as well as reduction in the green cover, significantly reduced the number of beehives as honeybees found little to no place to make hives.
Furthermore, the flowers which honey bees use to collect nectar became toxic due to spray of the pesticides, resulting in the deaths of thousands of bees.
This decreased the production of natural honey by a significant margin, prompting people to consume processed varieties.
The forest officer informed that there are four types of honey bees in Pakistan; Domna, Pahari, Small and European. The first three kinds are local bees while the European species (Apis Mellifera) has been imported from Australia.
European bee is the best because of how much more honey it produces.
Tabassum revealed that a honeybee flies 3.5 million times and travels 50 thousand kilometers to produce half a kilogram of honey.
“Honeybees lay 1,500 eggs a day and 250,000 million in one season. They remember the flower scents while moving around and return with its help after accumulating honey in their stomachs,” added Tabassum.
He said that about 400 tonnes of honey is imported to Pakistan every year, which is only 2% of total demand.
Tabassum is hopeful that the tree plantation project will cut Pakistan’s import bill even more over the coming years.