Plan bee: Pakistan honey exports create jobs buzz

Plan bee: Pakistan honey exports create jobs buzz
Beekeepers work on beehives in the Chakwal area of Pakistan’s populous Punjab province, on Feb. 7, 2021. (AN photo by Aamir Saeed)
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Updated 11 February 2021

Plan bee: Pakistan honey exports create jobs buzz

Plan bee: Pakistan honey exports create jobs buzz
  • Mideast sales offer sweet $6m payoff to growing army of beekeepers

ISLAMABAD: When Ameer Ahmed set up his bee farm as a part-time business with 30 beehives last year, the 22-year-old university student did not expect to turn the trade into a full-time job after making hefty profits.

Today, he has 100 beehives on his farmland in the Chakwal area of Pakistan’s populous Punjab province, and earns between $13,000 and $16,000 annually, mainly by exporting honey to countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“This is an easy and profitable business as one can start it without getting any formal skills and education,” Ahmed told Arab News.

He is among a growing legion of unskilled laborers, students and growers in remote areas of the country who are turning to beekeeping as a profitable source of income since it requires minimal capital and skill.

“I am encouraging my friends to get into this business, too,” Ahmed said, adding that he had to hire two workers to look after his growing apiary.

Commercial beekeeping is fast becoming a thriving business in Pakistan’s rural areas, providing new job opportunities for thousands of men and women, and helping the country earn foreign exchange through exports, mainly to Middle Eastern countries, according to researchers and honey traders.

The business is growing in the Chakwal, Jhelum, Attock and Sargodha districts of Punjab province, some parts of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which have areas suitable for the exotic bees.

The South Asian nation currently produces around 7,500 metric tons of honey annually, with more than 8,000 beekeepers rearing exotic species in 1 million beehives, according to the government’s Honeybee Research Institute in Islamabad.

Around $6 million in foreign exchange is earned annually through honey exports to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait.

Prime Minister Imran Khan launched the “Billion Tree Honey Initiative” in December last year to increase honey production to 70,000 metric tons in a year.

The government estimates the project will help generate around 43 billion rupees ($268 million) for the national economy and provide about 87,000 green jobs.

Under the program, the government has pledged to increase the plantation of specific trees and flora to improve the quality and production of honey and grant interest-free loans to traders.

Raza Khan, president of the All Pakistan Beekeepers Trade and Exporters Association, said Pakistan was producing “100 percent organic” honey through modern bee farming, and demand was increasing, particularly in Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait.

In the 2018-2019 financial year, Pakistan exported honey worth 966 million rupees ($5.8 million), about 260 million rupees more than the year before, according to the Honeybee Research Institute.

Industry insiders predict the numbers will keep going up as the country’s beekeepers benefit from Pakistan’s push to reforest the land under its “10 Billion Tree Tsunami” project, launched in 2018.

“Our honey is unique in the world for its natural taste, color and texture,” Khan said. “Its demand abroad is growing fast,” he added, urging the government to provide more incentives to boost the business and grant industry status to commercial beekeeping.

“The government should strengthen certification and quality standards of the honey so that we can also export it to the European market,” Khan said.

Globally, there has been a drastic decline in bee numbers, primarily due to intensive agriculture, pesticide use and climate change, environmentalists say.

A study published in the journal Science in April last year found that the world’s population of land-dwelling insects is falling by almost 1 percent every year.

In Pakistan, too, experts say honey production can increase only if the government takes strict measures to curb deforestation and pesticide use in agriculture.

Noor Islam, a senior scientific officer at the Honeybee Research Institute, said pesticide and antibiotics residue in honey was also a major obstacle in its export to the US and Europe.

“We don’t have the capacity and tools to gauge pesticide residue in our honey, and this has limited our exports to the Middle Eastern countries only,” he told Arab News.

“Beekeeping is a profitable business, but it still requires the government’s patronage and support to compete in the international market.”


Singapore to expand no-quarantine scheme for vaccinated travelers

Singapore to expand no-quarantine scheme for vaccinated travelers
Updated 18 October 2021

Singapore to expand no-quarantine scheme for vaccinated travelers

Singapore to expand no-quarantine scheme for vaccinated travelers
  • ‘Singapore cannot stay locked down and closed off indefinitely’

SINGAPORE: Fully vaccinated travelers from eight countries will be able to enter Singapore without quarantine from Tuesday, as the business hub eases restrictions and gears up to live with the coronavirus.

The city-state initially fought the pandemic by shutting borders, lockdowns of varying intensity and aggressive contact tracing but with more than 80 percent of the population fully vaccinated, authorities in the global aviation hub are keen to revive the economy.

They opened travel lanes for vaccinated passengers from Brunei and Germany in September, and will expand the scheme from Tuesday to another eight countries – Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United States.

The lane with South Korea will start November 15.

Under the policy, passengers will not have to quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated and tested negative for the coronavirus before they depart and on arrival.

“Singapore cannot stay locked down and closed off indefinitely,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said October 9, when he announced a raft of measures under the “Living with COVID-19” strategy.

Lee pointed to the Delta coronavirus variant as a factor.

“The Delta variant is highly infectious, and has spread all over the world. Even with the whole population vaccinated, we still will not be able to stamp it out,” he said.

“Almost every country has accepted this reality.”

In addition to focusing on home care for mild and asymptomatic domestic cases, Lee said Singapore needed to resume international travel.

The city-state is home to the regional offices of thousands of multi-national corporations, which rely on Singapore’s status as a business and aviation hub for their operations.

“We must continue to re-open our borders safely,” Lee said. “Companies and investors need to carry out regional and global business from Singapore. People working for them need to travel to earn a living.”

And the success of the city-state’s vaccinated lanes project may boost the recovery in the global aviation industry, which was hammered by the pandemic.

“We hope the positive actions taken by Singapore will spur other markets to similarly navigate their pathways towards restarting air travel,” said Philip Goh, Asia-Pacific vice president at aviation industry group IATA.


Sydney eases more COVID-19 curbs as vaccinations pass milestone

Sydney eases more COVID-19 curbs as vaccinations pass milestone
Updated 18 October 2021

Sydney eases more COVID-19 curbs as vaccinations pass milestone

Sydney eases more COVID-19 curbs as vaccinations pass milestone
  • Masks will no longer be mandatory in offices and more people will be allowed to gather in homes and outdoors

SYDNEY: Thousands of children returned to school in Sydney on Monday after months of home learning as Australia’s largest city, buoyed by rising vaccination rates, eased more COVID-19 restrictions.
Masks will no longer be mandatory in offices and more people will be allowed to gather in homes and outdoors after New South Wales state, home to Sydney, reached an 80 percent double dose inoculation rate for people aged over 16 over the weekend.
The latest in a series of planned easing of restrictions marks a shift by Australia’s largest cities to living with the virus, a strategy officials have warned will bring a greater number of COVID-19 cases in coming weeks.
“This is not over, there is a long journey to go,” New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Monday, urging people to strictly follow the remaining health rules.
Retail stores, pubs and gyms can allow more vaccinated patrons and nightclubs can reopen for seated drinking, while weddings can have unlimited guests. However, all must follow social distancing measures.
The return to the classroom has been staggered, with the youngest and eldest students — those in kindergarten, year 1 and year 12 — returning on Monday. All others return next week.
New South Wales reported 265 new cases on Monday, the lowest single-day rise in 10 weeks and well below a high of 1,599 in early September.
Neighboring Victoria reported 1,903 new cases, up from 1,838 a day earlier. State capital Melbourne is on track to begin exiting its lockdown on Friday as full vaccination levels near 70 percent. The city has endured around nine months under strict stay-home orders since March 2020 — the longest in the world, according to Australian media.
Some virus-free states, however, have flagged they will keep internal borders closed amid fears that reopening could overwhelm their health systems.
By contrast, the federal government said it would roll out its vaccination passport for international travel from Tuesday, a key step in its plan to allow Australian citizens to travel abroad from next month.
Authorities said last week that vaccinated international travelers, initially only citizens and permanent residents, will be allowed to enter Sydney from Nov. 1 without the need to quarantine.
With some 145,000 cases and 1,543 deaths, Australia’s exposure to the coronavirus pandemic has been relatively low.


Myanmar opposition welcomes ASEAN’s junta snub, wants summit invite

Myanmar opposition welcomes ASEAN’s junta snub, wants summit invite
Updated 18 October 2021

Myanmar opposition welcomes ASEAN’s junta snub, wants summit invite

Myanmar opposition welcomes ASEAN’s junta snub, wants summit invite
  • ASEAN will invite a non-political representative from Myanmar to its Oct. 26-28 summit
  • Myanmar has been in turmoil since the coup, which ended a decade of tentative democracy and economic reform

Myanmar’s shadow government, formed by opponents of ruling military, welcomed on Monday the exclusion of junta leader Min Aung Hlaing from an upcoming regional summit, but said it should be the legitimate representative.
However, the opposition said it would accept inviting a truly neutral alternative Myanmar representative, as decided over the weekend by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
ASEAN will invite a non-political representative from Myanmar to its Oct. 26-28 summit, in an unprecedented snub to the military leaders behind a Feb. 1 coup against Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government.
The opposition National Unity Government (NUG), which has been outlawed by the military, said the non-political figure who attends the summit must not be a representative of the junta in disguise.
“ASEAN excluding Min Aung Hlaing is an important step, but we request that they recognize us as the proper representative,” said its spokesman Dr. Sasa.
The decision was an unusually bold step for the consensus-driven bloc, which traditionally favors a policy of engagement and non-interference.
Brunei, ASEAN’s current chair, issued a statement citing a lack of progress made on a roadmap that the junta had agreed to with ASEAN in April to restore peace in Myanmar.
A spokesman for Myanmar’s military government blamed “foreign intervention” for the decision which it said was against the objectives of ASEAN, the ASEAN Charter and its principles.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the coup, which ended a decade of tentative democracy and economic reform. Thousands of its opponents have been arrested, including San Suu Kyi.
Security forces have killed more than 1,100 people, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an activist group that has tracked the arrests and killings. The military has called its opponents “terrorists.”


New Zealand PM Ardern extends COVID-19 lockdown in Auckland

New Zealand PM Ardern extends COVID-19 lockdown in Auckland
Updated 18 October 2021

New Zealand PM Ardern extends COVID-19 lockdown in Auckland

New Zealand PM Ardern extends COVID-19 lockdown in Auckland
  • No changes in the social restrictions that have already been in place for over two months in Auckland under alert level 3

WELLINGTON: New Zealand Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern said on Monday that the country’s biggest city Auckland will remain in lockdown for another two weeks as it looks to control the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.
There will be no changes in the social restrictions that have already been in place for over two months in Auckland under alert level 3, Ardern said at a news conference.


Pakistan to appoint head of spy agency within week

Pakistan to appoint head of spy agency within week
Updated 18 October 2021

Pakistan to appoint head of spy agency within week

Pakistan to appoint head of spy agency within week
  • News comes amid reports of rift between govt and army chief over the appointment

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s interior minister said on Saturday that matters relating to the appointment of the new head of Inter-Services Intelligence, the country’s premier intelligence agency, would be resolved within a week.

The army is arguably the most influential institution in Pakistan, with the military having ruled the country for about half of its 74-year history since independence from Britain, and has enjoyed extensive power even under civilian administrations.

The head of the intelligence in turn, is one of the most important posts in Pakistan.

The army’s media wing on Oct. 6 announced Lt. Gen. Nadeem Ahmad Anjum as the agency’s new head, and posted the current chief, Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, as Corps Commander Peshawar.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, though, has yet to issue an official notification about the posting, fueling reports of a rift between the government and army over the appointment.

Earlier this week, the prime minister and head of the army, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, held consultations over the role.  

“From this Friday, which passed yesterday, till the next, all issues will be resolved,” Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said at a ceremony in Islamabad.

“The ones who wish ill of our institutions and can’t stand Imran Khan’s democracy keep talking, but they will not succeed,” he added.

Created in 1948,  Inter-Services Intelligence gained importance and power during the 1979-1989 Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and is now rated one of best-organized intelligence agencies in the developing world.

The agency is seen as the Pakistani equivalent of the US Central Intelligence Agency, or Israel’s Mossad. Its size is not publicly known but the agency is widely believed to employ tens of thousands of agents, with informers in many spheres of public life.

The threat to Pakistan from nuclear-armed neighbor India has been a main preoccupation of the ISI throughout its existence.

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