Celebrating its successful journey over the last two years, India Honey Alliance (IHA), held its second AGM at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi on 23 August 2023. The event featured various dignitaries, including the IHA Scientific Advisory Board members, beekeepers and prominent industry stakeholders. Sunil Bakshi, advisor (Science & Standards, CODEX), FSSAI, was the Chief Guest and Dr. Prabhat Kumar, Horticulture Commissioner, Ministry of Agriculture, was the Guest of Honor for the event. The other distinguished experts who presided over the meeting included Dr. Naveen Patle, ED-National Bee Board, Dr. Kaushik Banerjee, President, India Section of AOAC, Dr Neetu Taneja, NIFTEM, Rahul Awasthi, chairperson, IHA, Deepak Jolly, secretary general, IHA and Namrata Khanna, director, IHA. The dignitaries highlighted how IHA has emerged as the unified voice of all stakeholders in the honey value chain, within a short span of time and the progressive agenda for the holistic development of the beekeeping sector.
The Scientific Advisory Board of IHA held deep and insightful discussions on how to develop the “Future of the Honey Industry Purity, Quality, Authenticity” and the way forward for IHA. The session was moderated by Dr. Ranjan Mitra, Immediate Past President - India Section of AOAC International. Dr Ajit Dua, chief executive officer, PBTI, as the co-chairperson of the Scientific Advisory Board, led the discussion with the attendees on various aspects of the testing, purity & authenticity of honey. The other members of the SAB are Dr Lakshmi Rao, CBRTI, Pune and Dr. Sayeed Ahmad, director, Centre of Excellence in Unani Medicine (Pharmacognosy and Pharmacology), Dr Rajesh Nair, dy. managing director at NDDB CALF, Dr Vivek Tiwari, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER).
Delivering his welcome speech, Rahul Awasthi, chairperson, IHA, highlighted how the top brands and all major players of the Honey industry have come together to create IHA, which is firmly committed to propelling the growth and success of the Indian beekeeping and honey industry. He also announced the establishment of the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), which aims to bridge the gap between scientific knowledge and its practical application in the honey industry.
In his keynote address, Sunil Bakshi, advisor (Science & Standards, CODEX), FSSAI, spoke about countering the theory of adulterated honey being made by various agencies with scientific facts. He also applauded the role of India Honey Alliance in raising the profile of honey in India and export markets and mentioned that FSSAI also looks forward to IHA’s support in implementing all mandates. He also advised the Scientific Advisory Board of IHA to come up with additional data that can help the industry, including the FSSAI in improving standards. Bakshi concluded by saying that FSSAI is open to suggestions from all the industry stakeholders and the government department and that honey approved by FSSAI, which is available to consumers, is of the best quality and nutritious.
The Guest of Honor, Dr. Prabhat Kumar, Horticulture Commissioner, Ministry of Agriculture, mentioned that Science and research are critical and hold the key to the future in the industry. He also cited the importance of traceability and that there needs to be a dynamic data system. Kumar opined that more and more beekeepers should register with the Madhukranti portal so that there is authentic data available.
IHA and NIFTEM had recently signed an agreement where both the organizations will work together to create scientific systems in terms of food safety, and nutrition for honey and bee-keeping products across the country. Dr. Neetu Taneja from NIFTEM asserted on several aspects of the mutual collaboration to better the honey community.
Based on the discussions that ensued, experts collectively agreed that beekeeping is a very fragmented and unorganized sector and that the Government and the entire Honey ecosystem should collaborate to take strong measures to flourish the beekeeping sector, increasing the export and production of honey, creating ways and means for quality testing.
Applauding IHA for its initiative to form a Scientific Advisory Board, the Chairperson Dr. Kaushik Banerjee, director, ICAR-NRC for Grapes, Pune & President, India Section of AOAC, mentioned that the IHA-Scientific Advisory Board will surely contribute in a big sustainable way by resolving queries such as the best-suited technique for resolving honey challenges. He stressed on the significance of sharing science-based information/ facts with consumers and stakeholders. Dr. Banerjee stated that there are many analytical parameters and techniques available for prevention of flaws in honey. He also highlighted the importance of quality testing of honey and that the advisory board can suggest more and more appropriate ways for honey testing.
Currently, the most important challenge that exists in the honey industry is to increase the consumption in domestic market so that the beekeepers get a fair price and the customers get qualitative product. This was the highlight of the address by Dr. Naveen Patle, ED-National Bee Board. Dr. Patle also asserted promotion of various by-products of honey including royal jelly and pollen.
During the scientific advisory board meeting, Dr Lakshmi Rao, CBRTI, Pune, shared few significant scientific aspects of beekeeping such as the importance of using super chamber hives to collect quality honey. Dr Ajit Dua, chief executive officer, PBTI, and co-chairperson of the Scientific Advisory Board, stated that all the regulations, standards and food authenticity parameters framed by the scientific bodies should be practically feasible and validated on an international level.
Protecting the quality of honey and developing effective methods that could be used by consumers for testing is of paramount importance. This was emphasized by Dr. Sayeed Ahmad, director, Centre of Excellence in Unani Medicine (Pharmacognosy and Pharmacology), during the SAB meeting.