Productivity can be boosted through
By IQBAL MIRZA
Pakistan can overcome the problem of declining agricultural
productivity through planned honeybee pollination activities
across the country, according to a research project launched
Honeybee pollination in sunflower crop could decrease
Pakistan's national import bill of edible oils and save
Pakistan's losses, which run into millions of dollars each
year by having low farm output which is attributed to very
low or no honeybee pollination activity at all.
By developing the pollination industry, the quality and
quantity of production of fruits, vegetables and
horticulture sector for producing 'export quality' products,
including honey, could be increased manifold in the country,
which would not only ensure food security through increased
productivity but would also earn millions of dollars in
foreign exchange through export of fruits, vegetables and
Shah Farms Pakistan (SFP) has launched an adaptive research
project with sunflower growers of interior Sindh. According
to apiculturist Asim Zafar Shah, the sunflower growers of
Matli and Golarchi (District Badin) have recorded 22 percent
increase in the crop yield due to honeybee pollination
trials at their field farms during the last one year.
Asim Zafar of Shah Farms, who is a professional apiculturist
having professional degree from Queensland Agriculture
University, Australia, told Business Recorder that Shah
Farms has initiated honeybee pollination activities across
Sindh for research and direct benefit to sunflower growers
of the area.
He said that Shah Farms, with the support of ICI, Pakistan,
organised a field day at the farmhouse of progressive farmer
and office-bearer of Sindh Abadgar Board, Abdul Majeed
Nizamani, which was participated by many sunflower growers
of the area as well as a group of agriculture scientists and
students of Tando Jam University to learn about the possible
impact of honeybee pollination on crop yield as well as its
direct and indirect financial benefits.
Honeybee researcher Asim Zafar expressed hope for the
success of this project and said that honeybee pollination
could decrease the national import bill of edible oils and
increase the national fruit export by several million
dollars each year if the government realised the
significance of honeybee pollination in the country.
Honeybees are a critical component of agricultural landscape
world-wide as honeybees visit blossoms to gather the nectar,
and pollen, necessary for their survival. They help
agricultural crops, home gardens and wildlife habitats
flourish. Pollination is the transfer of pollen from the
anthers of one flower to its own or another flower's stigma.
Simply put, pollination is the first indispensable step in a
process that results in the production of fruits,
vegetables, nuts and seeds.
Pakistan currently has around 0.4 million honeybee colonies;
each colony houses around 15,000 to 20,0000 honeybees. Asim
said that around 70,000 to 80,000 honeybee colonies were
lost due to flood in the country last year.
He said that the government should decide, and implement, a
support price for honey in the country to support the
honeybee keepers (apiarists) as well as to promote this
industry in Pakistan. He said that currently over 20,000
families are directly employed in honeybee keeping.
He said that the government and the Trade Development
Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) should organise exhibitions in
Pakistan as well as abroad to promote Pakistani honey across
the world "as we produce best of honeys in the world but
unfortunately it is sold in foreign markets with the brands
and name of other countries and not of Pakistan".
He said that due to the lethargic government policies and
procedures, honey producers sell their honey, without
value-addition, to foreign buyers who in turn sell it at
exorbitant prices in international markets and that, too,
without mentioning the area of origin.
He said that scientific and practical experience has proved
that cross pollination of flowers of entomophilous crops by
insects is the most effective and cheapest method of
increasing crop yield. Besides increasing the yield, bee
pollination also improves the quality of seeds and fruits.
The cost of planned pollination of plants by bees is
annually recovered by 15 to 20 times over through the value
of additional crop yield. The income from agriculture in
regions of intensive cultivation, obtained after using bees
in plant pollination, is 14-15 times greater than the cost
of honey and wax produced.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has
estimated that in USA 80 percent of insect crop pollination
is accomplished by honeybees. While other insects can also
pollinate plants, honeybees are the premier pollinators
because they are available throughout the growing season,
and they pollinate a wide range of crops and can be
concentrated whenever and wherever they are needed.
Asim said that in the United States about one-half of the
full-time beekeepers move their colonies from state to
state, and field to field, during the year to provide
pollination services to farmers as well as to reach abundant
sources of nectar for honey production. Thus, approximately
2 million colonies of bees are "on the road" each year to
pollinate crops there. Many of these bees are moved to
California, where an estimated 1,000,000 colonies of
honeybees are needed just to pollinate the almond crop. And,
the demand for these tiny, efficient workers and their
keepers continues to grow.
He said that the hack of awareness at the levels of farmers,
agriculture experts, analysts, and people at policy and
planning is one of the main hurdles in promotion of
pollination activities in the country.
He said that farmers are not aware of the importance and
benefits of honeybee pollination for increased agricultural
outputs. "Thus we lag far behind in this lucrative yet
productive industry. In general, people believe that
beekeeping is an exercise to produce honey only, and lack
indigenous awareness on the need for managed crop
pollination for enhancing cash crop production. There is a
dire need of changing the 'mindset' about honeybees and
beekeeping, and to raise awareness about the importance of
managed crop pollination," he stressed.
Raising awareness at all levels about the importance of
managed crop pollination through beekeeping and other
pollinators could be the first step towards a viable
honeybee pollination industry, he added.
Asim said that the government should promote this industry
by offering incentives to the farmers as well as to
professional beekeepers as till today the pollination has
never been a priority while formulating agriculture policies
and agricultural development strategies. The importance of
pollination to achieve higher yields has largely been
ignored in Pakistan. Therefore, the farmers have less or no
knowledge about its benefits and importance for their crops.
Since pollination is essential for the production of fruits
and seeds, it should he included in agricultural development
packages by promoting beekeeping for crop pollination as a
'double benefit approach'. Thus, the most important step in
promoting the wider use of honeybees for crop pollination is
to include beekeeping as part of agricultural development
efforts. He said: "We can ensure enormous employment
opportunities for rural women by imparting them the
knowledge and training about honeybee pollination". He said
that in the rural agriculture economy women play a very
important role. Women are a major workforce in Pakistan's
agriculture landscape. If the government takes serious steps
towards education and training of this workforce they could
become crucial contributors in promoting the honeybee
pollination to increase crop yield.
Consumers in the United States enjoy delicious, nutritious
and affordable agricultural products year-round, and
American farmers feed more and more people each year while
using less land. Without the honeybees' pollination work,
the quantity and quality of many crops would be reduced and
some would not yield at all.
According to a 2000 Cornell University study, the increased
yield and quality of agricultural crops as a result of
honeybee pollination is valued at more than $14.6 billion
per year. In fact, approximately one-third of the total
human diet is derived directly or indirectly from insect
pollinated plants (fruits, legumes and vegetables).
Courtesy: The DAWN