Beekeeping Business Plan – How to Start a Beekeeping Business in India

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Introduction

Beekeeping is a booming business in India. Several advanced and niche agricultural ventures such as hydroponics, organic farming, mushroom farming, and beekeeping are growing at an exponential rate. This guide will help you understand more about the beekeeping business in India.

Why Should You Start an Apiculture Business?

Beekeeping, also known as apiculture, is the practice of maintaining bee colonies and artificial beehives. Seasonally, once the bees in the colonies accumulate honey, the beekeepers harvest it from the hives, filter it, and then sell it. Beekeeping is a lucrative business and can offer high profits. Unadulterated and organic honey is not only sold at a premium in India but has an extremely high demand in the world.

The Apiculture Industry in India

India is one of the largest producers and exporters of honey in India. Bee farming has a huge role in the agricultural industry in India. Beekeeping has been a popular business in India. Since it is primarily forest-based, it does not require a lot of resources to maintain. Additionally, beekeeping being migratory in nature can be practiced even if you do not have land. Several farmers use beekeeping as a supportive system to increase their crop yield.

India is one of the top 10 honey-producing countries. Its honey export is well over 25,700 metric tonnes per year. Himachal Pradesh is one of the largest honey-producing states in India with over 85,000 families engaged in beekeeping. In a beekeeping business, honey is not the only product you can sell. Farmers sell beeswax to cosmetic and wellness companies as it is the primary ingredient in several styling products. Some farmers also sell off the queen bee of the hive. According to a report, there is immense potential in the honey export market compared to the domestic one.

Create a Beekeeping Business Plan

Starting a bee farm can be a little typical. Beekeeping is not an easy task but if executed with a robust plan, it is rewarding. To start a bee farm you must gather various kinds of equipment, get trained, select bee breeds, do honey extraction, and a lot more.

Market Research

The first step towards every business is good research. You need to research the apiculture industry in India, domestic demand, competitors, etc. Most importantly you also need to look at the local demand for honey. Beekeeping is usually done in hilly areas, however, the techniques for flat-terrain bee farming may differ. Therefore, after identifying the domestic apiculture market, you should get professionally trained as a beekeeper. Having professional training will not only help you to manage the farm better but also employ experienced staff.

Competitor analysis is an important part of your research. Take a close look at your competitors. Identify their marketing strategies, advantages, shortcomings, etc. Essentially, perform a SWOT analysis of your competitors.

Finance

Creating a clear outline of your finances will help you analyze how much profit you can generate based on how much you require to set up the farm. Therefore, pen down the entire setup cost – land acquisition, equipment, bee selection, storage infrastructure, etc. If you consider a rough estimate for 10 beehives, 80 bee boxes, and all the equipment, you can set up a bee farm for less than INR 2,25,000.

However, this is just a rough estimate. Investment costs may vary based on the type of farm. You must figure out what type of bee farm you want to start. Is it for commercial honey production, or for the production of beeswax, industrial equipment, etc? There are several niches in the beekeeping industry, so take a look at all of them to decide yours.

Marketing

The beekeeping industry is rapidly growing across the world. A smartly planned marketing campaign can help uniquely position your brand. Is the honey that’s being produced organically? Or does it belong to one of the exotic categories like Manuka? Create a USP for your brand as that helps sell the product. Create a website and with the help of a digital marketing agency, you can convert online visitors to long-term customers.

Additionally, even before you begin your business you must start visiting potential clients such as bakeries, supermarket chains, restaurants, cosmetic companies, etc. This will help you establish a seller-client relationship and have customers ready when it’s time for your first yield.

Requirements to Start a Beekeeping Business

There are several requirements to start a beekeeping business.

Infrastructure requirements

There are no conventional infrastructure requirements for a bee farm. However, you must keep three points in mind when you select a place to start a bee farm:

  • Flora and Vegetation: Flowers are the primary source of nectar for honey bees. In return, honey bees help increase the yield of crops such as capsicum, tomato, mustard, mango, etc. Therefore, placing your farm nearby thick vegetation or flora will result in faster and better quality honey.
  • Clean Water Source: Your bees will require a clean source of water to cool off and rehydrate. Thus, supply your farm with groundwater or water through a pipeline. Alternatively, you can place your farm near a natural water body.
  • Location: Remember, the beehives thrive in well-shaded and cool environments. High humidity and harsh sunlight will severely affect honey production. Ideally, your bee farm should be located near trees and vegetation that provide natural shade or you must construct artificial shades for your hives.

Now, an individual highly trained in beekeeping can run a small-sized bee farm on their own. However, if you decide to hire helpers, there are several factors you need to look at. Moreover, the number of helpers depends on the size of your farm. Either way, the helpers must also have some training and experience in beekeeping or honey processing.

There are no special legal requirements for beekeeping in India. You must register as a company and obtain a GST number as well as an FSSAI number. However, obtaining third-party beekeeping certification is extremely beneficial

Types of Bees

There are several types of equipment needed for beekeeping. Before that, let’s first understand the types of bees available in India:

  1. The Rock Bee (Apis Dorsata): Found in mountain regions, these bees produce 36kg of honey per comb every year.
  2. The Indian Hive Bee (Apis Cerana Indica): These are tamed honey bees that do not build single combs. Instead, they construct parallel combs and yield 6-8 kg of honey per colony every year.
  3. The Little Bee (Apis Florea): These are smaller bees that construct vertical combs on tree branches and shrubs. They yield half a kilo of honey per hive every year.
  4. The European or Italian Bee (Apis Mellifera): Similar to Indian bees, these bees construct parallel combs and are large in size. They yield 25-40 kg of honey per colony every year.
  5. Dammer Bee or Stingless Bee (Tetragonula Iridipennis): These bees are the best pollinators for food crops and are quite small. However, their honey production is limited to 100g per hive every year.

Equipment Needed

The two primary pieces of equipment required for beekeeping are hives and frames.

Hives are the structures where beekeepers keep the honey bees. Modern hives are made out of wood, plastic, or polystyrene. Traditional hives include clay pots and wooden logs.

Frames are rectangular hive-filling shapes where honey bees reside. To put into perspective, if the hive is an apartment, frames are the floors. The honey bees will construct honeycombs within these frames

Other materials required are protective gear and extraction equipment. These are as follows:

  • Bee veil: protective head net
  • Bee suit: a protective bodysuit
  • Gloves: protects hands from stings
  • Shoes or boots
  • Smoker: used to ward of honey bees while extracting honey from the combs
  • Hive tool: an essential tool used for apiary inspection
  • Queen catcher: a tool used to separate queen bees from the worker and drone bees
  • Feeder: used by beekeepers to feed the honey bees
  • Bee Brush: used to separate bees from the honey frames

Profit Margins

Profits collected from bee farms vary depending on the size of the bee farm. The average market price for honey is around Rs.120 – Rs.130 per kilogram.

Considering the yield to be 40kg per hive for 40 hives and a base rate of Rs.100 per kilogram, you can make a gross profit of over Rs.1,50,000 per year just from honey sales.

If you add the sale of byproducts such as beeswax, equipment, and training courses, the profit margin quickly expands.

Popular honey brands in India

  1. FirstBud Organics
  2. Dabur Honey
  3. Honey Basket
  4. Patanjali Honey
  5. Baidyanath Honey
  6. Himalaya Forest Honey
  7. Himflora Gold Honey
  8. Beez Honey
  9. Natural Mantra Honey
  10. Hitkari Honey

Apiculture Training & Resources

Here are some training resources to begin your apiculture journey,

Books on Apiculture

  1. Beekeeping: The Essential Guide by Andy Jacobson
  2. Beekeeping: How To Set Up A World-Class Colony That Rewards You With Endless Wax and Honey by Elliot Matthews
  3. The Bee Book by Fergus Chadwick, Bill Fitzmaurice, Steve Alton, and Judy Ear
  4. The Complete Book On Beekeeping and Honey Processing (2nd Revised Edition)
  5. Practical Beekeeping by Clive De Bruyn

Courses on Apiculture

  1. Vanavarayar Institute of Agriculture (VIA), Coimbatore
  2. Indigenous Beekeeping Centers, Gujrat
  3. Sahara Gramudyog Sansthan, Nathory village, UP
  4. Khadi and Village Industries Commission
  5. Bharat Honeybee Center Training Program

You can also visit the National Bee Board for support schemes and government initiatives in the apiculture industry. (https://nbb.gov.in/)

Conclusion

Beekeeping is a rising occupation in the agriculture sector. If you undergo practical and theoretical training, you can run a successful beekeeping business in India. Starting a bee farm in hilly regions can yield higher quality and exotic honey which is darker and denser in quality. Therefore, Indian honey has a soaring market internationally.

This post is also available in: English Hindi Tamil

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