Bee-keepers eye niche market for Grade A honey

Eighty-year-old South Kanara Bee-Keepers’ Co-operative Society Limited (SKBKCSL), the only co-operative society selling Grade A honey in the country, is poised to expand its market.

SKBKCSL President Chandra Kolchar said, “The recent Agmark (Agricultural Produce Grading and Marking Act) certification declaring our honey, sold under the brand name ‘Madhuri’, is of the highest quality (Grade A) has emboldened us to set our sights high”.

In the past, the Puttur based co-operative society’s (launched in 1938) attempted to expand its market. But its attempts had not yielded expected results due to uncertainty in the procurement of honey.

SKBKCSL Managing Director Thimmayya said, “Many times, the production of raw honey is affected by Thai sacbrood disease which hit the district in the 1980s”.

The training programmes and awareness about beekeeping, introduced a decade ago,  has helped the society. In previous fiscal, the society with 2,750 members, from both Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts, sold a record 1.02 lakh kg of honey (83 kg in 2016-17) netting a highest ever gross income of Rs 2.35 crore.

Unlike other societies in Uttara Kannada district, SKBKCSL receives 75 to 80 per cent of raw honey harvested by a beekeeper. “The members are aware of the high degree of processing their raw honey undergoes in the plant (300 kg capacity per day) at Madhuri Soudha in Puttur. Besides, dividend (20 per cent, highest-ever), the society also disburses bonus (Rs 8 per kg). Thus, each member is aware that more honey they contribute to society, they stand to benefit,” Thimmayya said.

After attending a meeting of directors in Madhuri Soudha, Chandra Kolchar said that they will apply for a trade mark for their Madhuri honey as a first step towards expanding consumer base. The society is focusing on niche segments like the online and overseas markets. “Presently, our honey being sold through Amazon is not under our brand name, Madhuri,” Kolchar said. Nearly 20 to 30 per cent of society’s honey is procured by pharma companies.

Madhuri is also sold to customers in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and other states through Khadi Bhandar. “Once a customer ends up tasting our unique honey, they get addicted and remain loyal to the brand forever,’’ Kolchar says with pride.

Demand from temples

SKBKCSL President Chandra Kolchar said that the raw honey is boiled up to 70 degrees to ensure moisture below 19 per cent and a maximum limit of five per cent sucrose content. The honey is also subjected to six-level micro-filtered processing.

Thus sure of its purity, well-known centres of pilgrimage, including Dharmasthala, Kateel and Kukke Subrahmanya temples use SKBKCSL’s Madhuri honey.

Subrahmanya temple during Shashti celebrations buys around 1,200 kg of honey. Many residing in Gulf, USA and other foreign countries make trips to Puttur to buy Madhuri, he added.

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Bee-keepers eye niche market for Grade A honey

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