Published: 11th October 2018
Honey will soon be part of the Midday Meal scheme, but where will it come from?
When it comes to the government's recent dictum of including honey in midday meals, the concern is not just about supplying the honey, but also its quality
When news got out that honey will be included in the midday meals scheme in Karnataka, it brought a smile to the faces of several school children and parents, but procurement of good quality honey, which is well-packed and pure, poses a huge challenge for the State Government and the Karnataka Education Department. Expressing concern over the consumption of poor-quality honey by children, Dr Roopa Deepti, Chief Nutritionist, Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute, says, "The duplication of honey will have a serious impact on a child's health. Hence, it is important to ensure that only pure honey is given to school children as it contains vitamins like A, D, B12 and has iron, which boosts immunity in children."
She further adds, "Adulterated honey has a high sugar content and it might lead to a rise in sugar levels among children suffering from juvenile diabetes. Also, unhygienic packaging of honey leads to the formation of bacteria in it. This contaminated honey, if consumed, can lead to dehydration, diarrhoea or might even trigger an allergic reaction."
Sweet work: A honey farmer extracting honey
Meanwhile, the question of who will supply honey to the government has not been discussed yet. Karnataka Beekeepers and Honey Processors Association say that the proposal to include honey in schools by the Government of India was suggested by the National Bee Board (NBB). This was done with the intention of promoting the produce of local beekeepers and farmers. Shiva Kumar, the secretary of the Karnataka Beekeepers and Honey Processors Association, says, "The NBB should come out with a draft to include the district or state-level players in the honey processing market. Only then, will the project have value, otherwise, the corporates will take up this supply-chain and destroy the opportunity for the local beekeepers and farmers." According to his estimation, the State Government might require anywhere between 45 to 50 tonnes of honey to be given in anganwadis alone.
Kumar informed that honey processing in South India is not viable as flowers here have more pollen (seeds) than nectar. The usage of high-breed seeds in sunflower farming and heavy pesticides in mango cultivation has resulted in the dipping of honey cultivation during the season here. Hence, the government looks towards the North Indian states where flowers usually have more nectar than pollen. However, the Education Department is clueless when it comes to funds for purchasing honey. P C Jaffer, Commissioner for Education, Government of Karnataka, says, "The biggest question is about the resources for the 'honey scheme'. While it is good that the Centre has announced the implementation of this scheme, how will we get funds for the same? These factors also need to be clarified."