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Honey Markets in the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve (NBR)

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p>A STUDY ON THE HONEY MARKETS OF NILGIRIS BIOSPHERE RESERVE

INSTITUTE OF RURAL MANAGEMENT ANAND

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The project that we have worked on is 'Honey markets in the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve (NBR)'. In this study we have traced the flow of honey from the honey hunters of NBR to the end consumers. This study is a part of a larger study, Darwin Initiative, aimed at studying the underlying linkages between Bees, Biodiversity and Livelihood in the NBR, undertaken by Keystone foundation along with University of East Anglia and Bees for Development.

For the study on 'Honey markets in the NBR', six sites were chosen from the sixteen sites chosen for Darwin Initiative, based on the accessibility of the site, the predominant trade channels present (based on previously available information, the sites were divided as formal and informal markets), the number of honey hunters in the site (used as a proxy to determine amount of honey collected in the sites to ensure presence of high and low honey collecting areas) and also ensuring that all the three states (Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh) were represented. Three sites with formal trade channels and three sites with informal trade channels were selected. In the selected sites, a few honey hunters, all the traders and institutional buyers and forest officials were interviewed to compose the value chain of honey.

The impact of Price, Credit, State regulation, Volume of honey collected in the site, presence of an accessible institutional buyer at the site, presence of a powerful leader and direct access of consumers to the honey hunters on the sale of honey by the honey hunter was studied and analyzed across the six sites. Of the factors considered, price, presence of an institutional buyer and the presence of a powerful leader had a significant impact on the flow of honey. Based on the above obtained information, the value chain of honey was drawn for all the six sites.

1. INTRODUCTION

The project that we had to work is 'Honey flow in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve'. In this study we have analyzed the flow of honey from the native indigenous honey hunters in the forest to the end consumers in the area of Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.

According to the Codex Alimentarius the definition of honey is as follows: Honey is the unfermented, natural sweet substance produced by honeybees from the nectar of blossoms or from secretions of living parts of plants or excretions of plant-sucking insects on the living parts of plants, which honeybees collect, transform and combine with specific substances of their own, store and leave in the honey comb to ripen and mature. Honey shall not have any objectionable flavour, aroma or taint absorbed from foreign matter during its production, harvesting, processing and storage and shall not contain natural plant toxins in an amount that may constitute hazard to health. The honey collected in Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve is from four different sources depending on the type of honey bees collecting them i.e. Apis cerana, Apis dorsata, Apis florea and Apis dammer.

Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve is the first internationally designated Biosphere Reserve of India. It was established in the year 1986 under the proposition of UNESCO. It comprises the three states of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. It covers 0.15% of India's land area i.e. an area of 5520 sq. km and is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. The NBR has six protected areas and more than five different types of forests. The major honey zones in the area include Kotagiri and Coonoor areas of Nilgiris, Sigur, Mukkurthi, Mudumalai, Bandipur, Nagarhole, Wynad, Silent Valley, Nilambur, and New Amarambalam Reserve Forest, Attapadi Valley, Pillur Valley, Anaikatti, Boluvampatti and Sathyamangalam Hills. It also home to a large number of indigenous communities, most of them forest dwellers and hunter gatherers. There around eighteen ethnic groups living in the area each of these having small populations and living in geographical concentrations. Not all the ethnic groups engage in honey hunting, the main honey hunters are Sholigas, Kattunaickens, Kurumbas, Cholanaickens and Irulas. Todas generally collect honey for home consumption and minor sales. The dorsata honey which is generally obtained from combs that are built in cliffs and not all the tribals engage in cliff honey hunting. Kurumbas are the experts in cliff hunting of honey whereas Irulas collect it from giant trees. The cerana honey is generally collected from tree cavities whereas florea and dammer honey is collected in small quantities from twigs and cavities in walls. The dammer honey is highly priced and used for medicinal purposes. Each of this ethnic group specializes in different ways and methods to collect honey which has given rise to specific techniques and traditions. Honey hunting is a seasonal activity for them; it starts in March and extends up to June. Thus the activity happens only for a period of three to four months in a year. Honey forms a component of the Non Timber Forest Produce which is commonly known as Minor Forest Produce.

In this study we have tried to capture the existing market for honey operating in the major honey zones of the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve. We met the different native honey hunters engaged in this vocation and enquired about the various selling options that they have.

This study looks at how markets function & work in these areas and identifies and analyses the factors affecting the honey market. The study tries to explore the various channels through which honey reaches the consumer from the hunter. It also analyzes the major factors affecting the emergence and establishment of particular channel in an area. The study also tries to explain how each channel function in an area, the intermediaries involved, their roles in the channel. The study also describes the value chain of honey with the prices at which different intermediaries purchase honey and wax. For the purpose of study specific sites were selected in the NBR to study the honey market and track the honey flow. This report begins by giving a brief idea about the context in which these markets are operating followed by the methodology adopted for the selection of sites. The market existing in these sites are then described followed by an analysis of all the sites.

2. POLICIES AND STATE REGULATIONS

There is neither any policy on NTFP in the state of Karnataka or any laws that have direct consequences on NTFP its collection, processing and marketing. Several legal documents have some rules regarding the extraction of certain NTFPs such as the Karnataka Forest Manual, The Karnataka Forest Act 1963 etc but by far it does not restrict the collection of honey. The state of Karnataka has defined MFP through its Karnataka Forest Act, 1963 as forest produce other than timber, sandal wood, firewood, charcoals, bamboos and minerals, and includes forest produce such as myrobolans, barks, fibres, flosses, gums, resin, dyes, grass, leaves, roots, fruits, seeds, creepers, reeds, moss, lichens, wood-oil, honey, wax, lac, wild animals, wild birds, horns, hides, bones, tusks etc. The Karnataka Forest department has allowed the collection of 45 items from the leased forest areas. The price fixation of these MFPs is done by Karnataka LAMPS.

The Tamilnadu Forest department allowed 23 items for collection from the leased forest areas. There is no proper definition for MFP in the state. The price fixation mechanism operating for these products is through the Tamil Nadu Forest Department. Honey does not figure in the list of allowable items for collection.

In the state of Kerala, forest department permitted 100 items to Tribal Services Cooperative Societies(TSCS) for extraction from the leased forest areas. The price fixation mechanism operating here is through Kerala Minor Forest Products committee. Honey and wax collection in the state is not banned but it is regulated through Cooperative Societies.

In these states for several years the trade of NTFP had been in favour of private contractors. Recently the government guideline for constitution of Village Forest Committee has, to some extent, kept the private traders away but the NTFP market is still with the hand of those traders. With the absence of any legal documents, the states like Tamil Nadu have complicated the NTFP management. The Tamil Nadu state Act has not defined NTFP and there are no transit rules for movement of produces outside the states.

3. METHODOLOGY

The study was carried out in a sample of six sites out of the total sixteen Darwin sites. The sampling which was suggested earlier on societies may not give a uniform analysis as these function only in Kerala and parts of Karnataka. Hence we have chosen six Darwin sites for the purpose of study. The six sites chosen to study the value chain of honey under the Darwin Initiative were selected on the basis of the following criteria.

  • Type of trade (formal or informal trade).
  • Number of honey hunters in the site.
  • Representation of all the three states
 

Research Sites

Region ,

State

Indigenous

Community

No of hhlds

No. Hhlds inter-viewed

No.of Honey hunting Hhlds

Trade Aspects

1

Bedaguli

Chamraj Nagar

Karnataka

Sholiga, Kannadiga

55

55

25

Collection is banned.

2

Kannur

Sathy

Tamil Nadu

Sholiga

96

48

30

Collection is banned in Tamil Nadu, but the Village Forest Council (VFC) collects honey from harvesters along with other NTFPs.

3

Kalidimbam

Sathy

Tamil Nadu

Irula

55

55

20

Collection is banned in Tamil Nadu, but the Village Forest Council (VFC) collects honey from harvesters along with other NTFPs.

4

Athoor

Chamraj Nagar

Karnataka

Sholigas, Kannadiga2 Badaga3

103

52

14

Collection is banned.

5

Comop

Coonoor

Tamil Nadu

Kurumba

7

7

4

Honey is sold to green shop Keystone in Coonoor - both honey as well as beeswax. Occasionally sold to other local shops as well.

6

Pudukadu

Coonoor

Tamil Nadu

Kurumba

34

34

4

The Honey is sold to shops on the Coonoor- Mettupalayam highway

7

Situkunni

Coonoor

Tamil Nadu

Irula

10

10

1-2

Sold to local traders, tourists and occasionally to Keystone's centre.

8

Kobo

Kotagiri

Tamil Nadu

Toda

9

9

3-4

Honey is collected mostly for personal consumption.

9

Koduthen mund

Kotagiri

Tamil Nadu

Toda, Others 4

8

8

1-2

Cerana honey collected for consumption but not regularly.

10

Tunieri

Kotagiri

Tamil Nadu

Badaga, Others

320

51

None

None of the households are engaged in HH.

11

Perur

Sigur

Tamil Nadu

Kattunaicken

51

51

18

The product is sold within the village, tourists and local customers or to Kallur cooperative society in Kerala.

12

Chemmanatham

Sigur

Tamil Nadu

Kasava/Irula

44

44

5-10

Honey collection is banned. It is collected and sold to local traders or the numerous resorts adjacent to the Mudumalai sanctuary.

13

Siriyoor

Sigur

Tamil Nadu

Kasava/Irula/Jenu Kurumba

52

52

7-10

Honey collection is banned. It is collected and sold to local traders or the numerous resorts adjacent to the Mudumalai sanctuary.

14

Nala

Nilambur

Kerala

Kattunaicken, Paniyas

54

54

15-20

Honey is sold to the cooperative society. Society has a captive market as selling outside is illegal.

15

Mancheri

Nilambur

Kerala

Cholanaicken

145*

 

All caves have Honey Hunters

Honey is sold to the society Bees wax is also sold to the society. Society has a captive market as selling outside is illegal.

16

Mundakadavu

Nilambur

Kerala

Padinaickens, Paniyas

29

29

6

Honey is sold to the society and to the local traders. Bees wax is also sold to the society for Rs.120/kg. Society has a captive market as selling outside is illegal.

Table 1: Information about honey trade across Darwin sites

As mentioned above the criteria used for selection of site for the study of value chain of honey from the Darwin sites were the type of trade (formal or informal trade), number of honey hunters in the site and the representation of all the three states.

These criteria were applied to the sites in the above mentioned order. The Darwin sites were initially categorized into one of the three trade types prevalent by large. Throughout our study, we have used the terms 'formal, informal' trade to describe the trade channels existing in the different sites. Informal trade includes the honey collection and trade in the area where it is banned by law and is not allowed by the forest officials. This kind of a trade can be seen on the Karnataka part of NBR. By 'Informal' trade we refer to honey trade with private traders and the flow through informal channels of trade. Here there is no organizational set up for buying honey. The honey traded here is unbilled. Honey trade in Tamil Nadu is not allowed by law but it is permitted by the forest officials. This is also included under informal trade. Honey collection and trade in this area happen with the knowledge of the forest officials. The above mentioned are considered as 'permitted' trade. The 'permitted' trade, can again be formal and informal trade. By 'formal' trade, we refer to honey trade with organizations like keystone (in Tamil Nadu) or cooperative societies (in Kerala). In this, the honey traded is billed. Honey collection and trade in Kerala is permitted by law. The following table shows the classification of Darwin sites according to the type of trade

Table 2: Classification of Darwin sites based on the type of trade

INFORMAL TRADE

FORMAL TRADE

ATHOOR

MANCHERI

BEDAGULI

KANNUR

PERUR

KALIDIMBAM

SIRIYUR

NALA

CHEMMANATHAM

MUNDAKADAVU

PUTHUKADU

COMOP

KOBO

 

KODUTHENMUNDU

 

SITUKUNNI

 

Tuneri has not been included in the table because no honey collection takes place there. In the next step, the sites were ranked based on the number of honey hunting households present in the village. The following table shows the sites ranked in descending order of honey hunters present in a village.

Table 3: Sites selected for the study

INFORMAL TRADE

FORMAL TRADE

NAME

HH

NAME

HH

BEDAGULI (KARNATAKA)

25

MANCHERI (KERALA)

36

PERUR (TN)

18

KANNUR (TN)

30

ATHOOR (KARNATAKA)

14

KALIDIMBAM (TN)

20

SIRIYUR (TN)

7

NALA (KERALA)

15

CHEMMANATHAM (TN)

5

MUNDAKADAVU (TN)

6

PUTHUKADU (TN)

4

COMOP (TN)

4

KOBO (TN)

3

   

KODUTHENMUNDU (TN)

1

   

SITUKUNNI (TN)

1

   

After the sites were ranked, they were selected based on the number of honey hunters and other factors as mentioned below

Athoor and Bedaguli are the two Darwin sites in Karnataka. In these sites, honey hunting is banned as per the state regulation and is also not permitted by the forest officials. In spite of it, honey is being collected there. Athoor was chosen over Bedaguli in the state of Karnataka because of the following reasons

  • Easy accessibility.
  • Athoor is located on a highway (Sathyamangalam Mysore highway). Athoor is the only site that is located on a highway and has the possibility of sale to travelers on the road. It has the potential for retail trade by honey hunters.

There are nine sites that fall under the informal trade category including the two sites in Karnataka. Of these seven sites, Perur had the highest number of honey hunters (more than twice the number of the second highest) and was selected. Koduthenmundu and Situkunni were not selected for low honey flow areas even though they had only one honey hunting house hold each because the hunters here do not go for honey hunting every year. So Kobo with three honey hunting house holds was selected as the site for low honey flow area under the informal trade category.

In the formal trade category, Mancheri (even though it has the highest number of honey hunting house holds) was not selected because of accessibility problems. Kannur with thirty house holds was selected as the site for high honey flow and Comop with the least number of honey hunting house holds in the category was selected.

Then the selected sites were checked to find out whether all the three sites were being represented. Karnataka was represented by Athoor, Tamil Nadu by Perur, Kobo, Kannur and Comop but there was no site to represent Kerala. So we selected Nala in the category of formal trade with high number of honey hunters. Mundakadavu was not selected since the number of honey hunting households was almost half of that of Nala. Mancheri was rejected because of the accessibility problem as mentioned earlier.

  • Reasons for Selecting Kannur
  • It falls under the honey rich area of Sathy (Tamil Nadu). Nearly 30 out of the 90 households were involved in honey collection.
  • Kannur consists of people from Sholigas community who engage in honey hunting and NTFP collection (seemar pullu, Nellikai, Kadukai and Shikakai).
  • Honey collection at Kannur is considered to be formal (even though honey collection is banned in Tamil Nadu), because it is allowed by the DFO.
  • Honey is collected from Apis dorsata, Apis florea and Apis cerana bees. Honey collection is done individually as well as in groups.
  • Honey and bee wax are collected by the VFC's which in turn sells it to the Thumbitakadu People's Centre. In this site, a very high proportion of the collected honey is sold to the VFC. This is taken care of by the local strongman (politician cum priest), who is strongly associated with the VFC.

3.2. Reasons for Selecting Perur

  • This region falls under the Sigur area of Tamil Nadu where A.cerana as well as A. dorsata honey is collected.
  • Perur consists of people belonging to Kattunaicken community who collect honey as well as other NTFP products like tubers and flower seeds.
  • The Honey is produced in large quantities in the area. Eighteen out of fifty-four households engage in honey hunting.
  • The trade is largely through informal channels. A considerable part of the quantity is sold within the village or local customers. Honey that is sold to some traders located in the area, though less in quantity fetches a higher price. Even though Perur falls in Tamil Nadu, some part of the honey also flows to the Kallur Cooperative Society in Kerala.

3.3. Reasons for Selecting Athoor

  • The site falls under the Sathy region of Karnataka commonly known as ChamrajNagar. 14 out of 54 households interviewed engage in honey collection.
  • This site consists of people belonging to Lingayth, Sholigas and Badagas community. They are dependant on agriculture, agricultural labour, tea shops, fire wood, bamboo collection, honey and other NTFP collection.
  • Almost all different types of honey are collected from this site.
  • This site is located on the main road so it is easily accessible for conducting the study.
  • In this area, NTFP collection is banned and neither informally permitted by the forest officials. The honey collected in this area is sold in nearby retail shops or to local traders in the nearby areas. So the honey trade taking place in the area is illicit in nature.

3.4. Reasons for selecting Comop

  • This village falls in the Coonoor part of the NBR.
  • Honey collection here is low as there are only four households out of seven which are involved in honey collection.
  • Honey collected is traded formally as it is largely sold through Keystone by way of its green shop at Coonoor even though some part of it is sold to other shops.
  • People engaged in honey hunting are kurumbas. Around 94.16 kg of honey and 3.64 kg of wax was procured from this village by Keystone during the year 2007.

3.5. Reasons for selecting Kobo

  • The village falls in the Kotagiri part of the NBR.
  • The village mainly deals with Apis cerana honey which is collected by Todas.
  • The honey collection is low with 3-4 households out of the total nine engaging in honey hunting.
  • The trade channel is informal here because a major part of the honey goes in for personal consumption and the rest sold to traders.
  • Some non Todas are also involved in Apis cerana honey collection in the area.
  • Around 162.14 kg of honey and 4.42 kg of wax was procured from this area by Keystone during the year of 2007-2008.

3.6. Reasons for Selecting Nala

  • It is a honey rich area which falls in the Nilambur region and 15-20 out of the 54 households are engaged in honey hunting.
  • The trade here is formalized as the honey collectors are not allowed to make any direct sales and it is only through the Cooperative societies existing in the area. In spite of the regulations there is a chance that a part of the honey flows outside the cooperatives since the cooperatives provide them Rs.60 where as direct sales can fetch them prices higher than this.
  • The areas have indigenous communities such as Kattunaickens and Paniyas who collect dorsata honey. Other NTFP products collected are Canarium, Garcinia etc.
  • Dammer honey is also collected especially during the rainy season. Much of the honey harvesting in the area takes place during the night.

Note: We have selected two sites (Kannur and Nala) to study the high volume and formal market type mainly because these sites are in different states where different policies exists for NTFP collection and a comparative study on the sites maybe possible. By selecting NA which produces large amount of honey we can also understand whether the entire honey goes to the societies or not.

As mentioned above the criteria used for selection of site for the study of value chain of honey from the Darwin sites were

  • Type of trade (formal or informal trade).
  • Number of honey hunters in the site.
  • Representation of all the three states.

3.7. Selection of Traders

In the village of Nala, there were about five traders involved in the honey trade. We interviewed three out of these as the other two were not regular buyers of honey. In the site of Comop and Kobo all the traders linked to the honey trade were interviewed. All the traders at Perur, Athoor were interviewed. Traders do not operate in Kannur.

3.8. Selection of Households

In the site of Nala, four out of the fifteen honey hunting households were interviewed. The selection of these households was only on the basis of accessibility. In cases of other sites like Comop and Kobo which has low number of honey hunting households, all were interviewed. In Perur, there are four honey hunting groups. All the group leaders were interviewed. In Athoor and Kannur, the honey hunters were interviewed based on their availability.

To maintain anonymity of the respondents, fictitious names have been used for the individual respondents and sites studied.

4. Athoor

The village Athoor is in the state of Karnataka, seven kilometers from the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border. The Karnataka state check post is located right at one corner of the village (on the Tamilnadu side). The part of the village close to the check post has around ten tea shops. The village is located right on the Sathyamangalam Mysore road. This road has a heavy flow of traffic around the year. The village consists of five small settlements lying on either side of the road. There is one settlement close to check post, which has a few houses and shops. This part of the village is right in front of the check post and all the activities can be observed by the forest guard stationed at the check post. There are four bus stops located in Athoor. The second bus stop is right under the forest guard's nose.

4.1. Check Post:

In Athoor honey collection is banned by the state government (honey collection in the Karnataka part of NBR is banned by the Karnataka state government). If they are caught trying to sell honey or beeswax, they could be arrested, the goods could be seized, they may have to face a fine, face imprisonment or a combination of the above mentioned (interview with the forest guard).

This check post is guarded day and night. One or two guards are stationed at this check post. The importance of this check post lies in the fact that this is right on the Karnataka Tamilnadu border, seven kilometers from the state border. A vehicle passing through this check post will next encounter the Asanur check post, which is in Tamilnadu. The lorries and trucks passing through this check post are checked for permits and verified with the goods that are being carried. Regular goods carriers are rarely checked for the goods that are actually being carried. They just have to undergo a customary check. Private passenger vehicles such as cars, jeeps and two wheelers are almost never stopped here. Occasional checking that takes place on the busses that cross the check post (Source: interview with forest guard and honey hunter Ramu). The real problem for the honey hunter is crossing this check post with the honey and wax (Source: interview with honey hunters Ramu and Sivarama).

The various options that the honey hunter has to sell his honey are as follows

4.2. Smuggle the Honey Across the Border and Sell at Asanur

Keystone's Thumbitakadu peoples centre is located in Asanur, sixteen kilometers from Athoor. The honey hunter can reach Asanur only by crossing the check post. Even though there are ways of reaching Asanur from Athoor through the forests, people do not take this route, because of the long distance to be covered carrying the weight of the honey and wax and the presence of wild animals. People have to cross the check post by bus or lorry. Crossing the check post by foot or by a two wheeler is not possible, for the chances of getting caught at the check post are very high (Source: interview with honey hunters Ramu and Sivarama).

The guards at the check post are familiar with most of the people in the village. They also do have an idea about the honey hunters, the honey traders and the people who try to smuggle honey across the check post (Source: interview with forest guard, honey hunters Ramu and Sivarama).

If the honey hunter decides to transport his honey by bus, he has to board a bus from the third or the fourth stop. He cannot board a bus from the second stopping because it is right next to the check post and there are no buses to Asanur from the first check post. Honey hunters normally transport honey in small oil cans of capacity five to ten liters (each liter of honey weighs about 1.37 kilograms). Wax is mostly transported in small quantities, by putting it in a cloth bag. Wax being transported by bus has never been caught (Source: interview with forest guard). In this case, the honey hunter risks the chance of being caught at the bus stop. If some forest official happens to see a person with a can, the can would be checked then and there by them. The honey hunter could also be caught at the check post, during one of those rare bus checks. The forest officials check the buses if they get information about the smuggling of honey or if they spot a particular honey hunter travelling in a bus which he normally does not travel in. the forest guards are more vigilant during the peak honey flow months, May-June (Source: interview with forest guard, honey hunters Ramu and Sivarama).

If a lorry driver decides to help in transporting the honey, he risks being caught at the check post. This could result in his arrest, lorry being taken into their custody and so on. Considering this risk involved, the lorry drivers who are confident that they would not be checked at the check post get involved in the transportation of honey. Considering the risky nature of the job, lorry drivers take up this activity only for people they are acquainted with. In return for this, the lorry driver would get half to one liter of honey. They are rarely paid with cash. This is done by the lorry driver without the knowledge of the lorry owner (Source: interview with honey hunter Ramu).

Once they cross the check post, the honey hunter is in safe territory. Crossing the check post is done late in the night or in the early hours of the morning. In this case, the risk of the operation is borne by the honey hunter. If he is able to successfully take it to the Keystones Thumbitakadu peoples centre, he gets Rs. 60 per kg of honey. If he is unable to do it, he stands to loose the entire honey and will also have to face the legal proceedings (Source: interview with honey hunters Ramu and Sivarama).

4.2.1. Sell the honey to a bulk buyer in Athoor

The honey hunter has the option of selling his honey and wax to a buyer in Athoor itself. In this case, he can sell it to one of the buyers, at the terms of exchange offered by them. The details of these are mentioned under the description given for each trader.

4.2.2. Sell the honey to a retail buyer in Athoor

The honey sellers also have the option of selling honey to retail buyers. The retail buyers comprise of tourists or other travelers, travelling in this road and buy honey from here for self consumption or for relatives or friends. They normally buy a liter or two of honey. The honey that is being sold to the retail buyer is measured and sold in liters. Honey is normally sold in used plastic water bottles. These plastic water bottles are available in the wine shop in the village and some are also seen on the road side, thrown by the travelers (Source: interview with honey hunters Rajan, Ramu and Sivarama).

Athoor is famous for pure honey in these parts. The retail buyer may be a regular buyer, such as a lorry or bus driver or a person who makes frequent trips in this path, who buys honey from Athoor on a regular basis, in which case he is bound to buy from a regular seller(Source: interview with honey hunters and traders). The details of the regular sellers are mentioned under the descriptions given for different traders.

The occasional honey buyer normally stops at one of the road side shops and asks for a person who can sell him honey. The shopkeeper directs him one of the traders or a honey hunter, who can sell him the honey. Some shopkeepers do have tie ups with the traders for directing them to them. Traders or honey hunters located on the main road enjoy a major advantage in his regard. The advantage with the traders is that they are ready with the packed honey all the time but whereas the occasional seller is not readily equipped with the bottle to sell the honey, even worse, he may not even have honey round the year. This has to be done away from the eyes of the forest guards. There have been no incidences of forest guards catching people selling small quantities of honey (Source: interview with honey hunters and traders).

The price of honey depends on the type of honey, the buyer's knowledge of honey, the season during which he is buying it and his relation with the honey seller (first timer or a regular buyer and so on). The price varies from 80 per liter to 120(Rs. 58 to Rs. 88 per kg) per liter of honey. In most of the cases, the traders have sold honey at around Rs. 100 per liter (Rs. 73 per kg) (Source: interview with honey hunters and traders). Specifics about the same are mentioned in the trader details.

The honey hunters do not consider this as a serious option, because it is suitable only for people living on the main road. There are only a couple of honey hunters living on the main road. If they are involved in retail honey selling, they need to have honey stock around the year which means that they do not have immediate cash to meet their expenses. They also run the risk of being unable to sell the stocked up honey. They also feel that contacts with the travelers and good negotiation skills are required for this(Source: interview with honey hunters).

4.3. Honey Hunters

4.3.1. Rajan:

Rajan is twenty five years of age and belongs to the Sholiga community. His family depends on honey collection and agriculture on their two acres of land for their livelihood. He goes for honey hunting along with his father and other relatives in groups of five to eight men. They hunt honey from the trees and from the rocks. They sell their honey to Mansoor Khan and to keystone. Last year, they have collected around five hundred kilograms of honey, of which they gave just sixty kgs to keystone and the rest to Mansoor Khan. They sell almost all their honey to Mansoor Khan because of the lack of risk in this option and they get to loose only Rs. 5 per Kg of honey, which he feels is much better than loosing the entire stock. He also takes interest free loans from Mansoor Khan, when he goes for honey hunting. The loan amount is adjusted for when he sells the honey to Mansoor Khan. He also feels that Mansoor is not particular on the quality of honey the way keystone is. They rarely collect wax and sell the collected wax to Mansoor Khan or to other candle makers in the village. After selling the honey and wax, they deduct the expenses from the realized money and the rest is equally shared by the members of the group (Source: interview with honey hunter Rajan).

4.3.2. Sivarama:

He belongs to the Sholiga community and is twenty two years of age. He goes for honey hunting along with his friends. Last year, they had collected around fifteen hundred kgs of honey, of which they sold around five hundred kilograms to keystone and the rest to Mansoor Khan. When they sell it to keystone, they carry honey in plastic cans that can hold around twenty liters of honey. Even though they can realize more per kg of honey sold by selling it to keystone, they can do it only in small quantities. Because of this, they sell a large portion of their collection to Mansoor Khan, who pays as soon as the honey is delivered at his place. During their visits to the forest to collect honey, they are able to collect huge quantities of honey that they find it difficult to carry it back to the village. This leaves them with no space to carry back the wax. Most of the times, they leave wax in the forest itself. They bring back wax only when they have less honey and in those cases, they sell the wax to keystone or to Mansoor Khan or to local candle maker (Source: interview with honey hunter Sivarama).

4.4. Honey Hunter cum Trader

4.4.1. Ramu:

Ramu, belongs to the Sholiga tribal community, is twenty four years of age and has been married for the past two years. He lives in a house with his mother and his unmarried brother, Vijaykumar. His wife does not live with them because of the constant quarrelling she has with her mother in law. She lives in another village with her parents, which is sixty kilometers away from Athoor. Ramu visits his wife once a week. They depend on agriculture, honey collection, honey trading and lorry cleaning/driving for their livelihood.

They own an acre of dry land and cultivate it once a year (rain fed agriculture) during the south-west monsoon period (July-Oct). They take up ragi or beans cultivation. If they cultivate ragi, they use it for self consumption, and if they go for beans cultivation, they sell their produce in the Mettupalayam market.

Ramu does not know how to drive a lorry. Vijaykumar knows how to drive a lorry but does not hold a drivers license. Both of them work for lorry drivers as lorry cleaners. Vijaykumar can also assist the driver. This has helped them to develop contacts with a lot of drivers, which plays a crucial role in their honey transportation. He sells some honey to lorry drivers for their consumption and for their friends and relatives. He sells honey to them in plastic or alcohol bottles available at the village wine shop at the price of Rs 100 per liter.

They go for honey collection during the months of May and June. They do not go for cliff honey hunting. They hunt honey only from the trees. They go in groups of four or five people. They have collected around two hundred kilograms of honey last year (2007). His group does not collect wax, for he believes that they do not get enough of returns worth the pain undergone to collect, transport, purify and sell it. They sell most of their honey to keystones Thumbitakadu peoples centre. In addition to selling their honey, they also help in selling other honey hunters honey to the same place. For this, they charge a commission of Rs. 5 to 10 per kg of honey. They buy the honey from the people at Rs. 50 to 55 per kg of honey. They do not make immediate cash payments. They first take the honey from the honey hunter and stock it at their house. They then pour the honey into convenient plastic containers, transport it to Asanur, where he sells it and then he goes back pays the honey hunter. He accepts any variety of honey that would be accepted at the Asanur centre. He does not deal with wax.

If they are transporting honey through lorry, they use large plastic cans with a capacity of 20 liters per can and carry two to four cans per trip. The honey is loaded on the lorry some where between the third and the fourth bus stops. He does not travel with the lorry till it crosses the check post for fears that his presence might invoke suspicion of the forest guards. He crosses the check post by foot and gets into the lorry after it crosses the eye sight of the forest guard. He establishes contact with the lorry drivers through phone and knows the time during which they would be crossing the check post and fixes up with the lorry driver according to his convenience. He selects a lorry, which travels regularly on that road, so that the lorry will most likely cross the check post without examination. The lorry that he selects must also have some other load, behind which he can hide his honey cans. He also prefers lorries that cross the check post during the night time. In return for this help, he pays the lorry driver with half to one liter of honey. When he uses his friend's lorry, then he does not give them honey every time. He claims that he has never had to pay a lorry trip with cash.

He carries the honey by bus, only if he is unable to find a suitable lorry travelling in the way. If he is transporting the honey by bus, they carry honey in five or ten liter oil cans. He carries between two to four cans per trip. He prefers the early morning bus to cross the check post, as he believes that during this time of the night, the guards are highly unlikely to check the bus.

As soon as Ramu receives honey from the honey hunter, he takes responsibility of it and the risk associated with the honey is his. Weather he is able to smuggle the honey and sell it or it gets caught at the check post, he has to pay the honey hunter at the agreed upon price. He does not run his business with a lot of cash. He is able to smuggle and sell the honey within a couple of days of receiving it and pays the honey hunter as soon as he sells it. This system does not have a problem as long as the honey does not get caught.

Last year, on one occasion, he had to transport 100 kgs of honey that he had acquired from a honey hunter in the village. This task was taken up by his brother Vijaykumar. He was waiting for the lorry near the third bus stop. He went to a near by shop and when he came back, he found the forest guard standing next to the honey can and was enquiring people in the nearby area, trying to find out who the owner was. When he was questioned by the forest guard, he said it was not his honey and came back home. Later on, he tried to recover the honey by passing on a bribe to the forest guard through a common friend of his and the forest guard. But when he learnt through the common friend that the forest officials were not only going to seize the honey but were also going to arrest the owner of it, he gave up his efforts to recover it. But here he had to pay the money due to the honey hunter. He was able to do it only over a period of six months (Source: interview with honey hunter Ramu).

4.5. Honey Traders:

4.5.1. Abbas Bhai:

He resides in the first settlement and is in the same neighbor hood of Ramu. He works in chamrajnagar (50 kms, one and a half hour by road from Athoor). A few years back, Veerappan (a famous dacoit in the area) had left his wife in the safe custody of a person from Athoor. But the person ended up handing Veerappan's wife over to the police. Because of this, Veerappan took revenge on the people whom he believed were responsible for the event. Abbas Bhai had lost his one eye and one hand during one of Veerappan's attacks. He buys honey and sells it to his colleagues, relatives or friends in Chamrajnagar. He buys honey in small quantities of five to ten liters at a time or so on. He trades only in liters. He buys at a price of Rs. 70 to 75 per liter. He pays the honey collector when he receives the honey. He claims that because he his selling it to people whom he knows, he cannot sell it for a profit and sells it at cost price. He does not consider this as an economic activity at all. But people in the village claim that he sells it at Rs. 100 per liter, even though they do not have any evidence to support their claim. He does not differentiate and buys different types of honey and pays only the same amount for any type of honey. Because of this, he gets only rock bee honey (honey of Apis dorsata). He does not buy wax. Last year, he has bought and sold around fifty liters of honey (Source: interview with Abbas Bhai).

4.5.2. Mansoor Khan:

Mansoor khan lives on the Sathyamangalam-Mysore road. His house is just two hundred meters from the check post. He has started trading in NTFP products since the early nineties. His friendship with Kanagaraj, a NTFP and timber trader from Nagerkoil introduced him to this trade. Kanagaraj wanted to procure honey for Ayurvedic medicine makers in Nagerkoil. He came to know that there was a lot of honey available in Athoor, enough and more to meet his needs. He approached Mansoor Khan, a native of Athoor to act as his agent and procure honey for him for a commission. After that, Mansoor Khan started to deal with other forest products like amla, broom grass and deer horns. He was doing business along with Kanagaraj and also alone. He feels that the ban on collecting forest products came at a time when his business was flourishing. After the ban, right now he is able to deal only with honey and does not deal with other forest products.

He buys honey from the people at Rs. 75 per liter during season and Rs. 80 per liter during off season (he buys only in liter measures). The honey has to be delivered in his house. He pays for the honey as and when he receives it. He also gives advance payments and interest free loans to honey hunters to cover their expenses for honey hunting. He does not check for the quality of honey. He claims that here people do not adulterate it and he need not check the quality of honey. He is also not bothered about the water content in the honey. He pays Rs. 100 per liter of floria honey that he receives. He almost never receives dammar honey. As he lives close to the check post, honey is brought to his house by the honey hunters in the cover of darkness by foot or by bicycle. He buys any amount of honey bought to him.

He sells honey to retail buyers as well as institutional buyers. Retail buyers include lorry and bus drivers, tourists and a traveler using the road, people from near by areas who come here to buy honey for domestic consumption and so on. These buyers in most cases buy honey for their own use or to give it to their friends or relatives. For retail sale, the measure used is liters. They buy in quantities ranging from half liter to five to ten liters. He uses used plastic water bottles or glass alcoholic beverages bottles to sell half one and two liters. For higher volumes, five and ten liters, he uses oil cans. He gets the water bottles from the near by wine shop and the oil cans from the grocery shop on the same road.

He regularly keeps stock of these standard volumes, so that he does not have to keep his customers waiting. He also ensures that he keeps stock round the year, for he believes that if a customer goes empty handed, he might never return back to his place. There is no standard price at which he sells the honey. The regular buyer pays Rs. 90 to 100 per liter (Rs. 66 to 73 per kg) during the season and up to Rs. 120 per liter (Rs. 88 per kg) during the off season. For the occasional or the first time buyer with whom Mansoor is not familiar with, he quotes the price at any where between Rs. 100 to 150 per liter (Rs. 73 to 110 per liter). Then the customer quotes the price he is willing to pay for the honey. The final price is settled on after a round of negotiations, where Mansoor tells the customer that he is still selling the honey at a fraction of the price for which other branded players are selling in the market and their honey is not as good as the one that he sells. He then tells the customer about the problems that they have to face because of the ban on NTFP collection in the area and the pain he has to undergo to buy and stock it. In most of the cases, he also adds that this is the last bottle honey with him and the customer can decide if he wants it at the quoted price. There have even been cases, where he has sold his honey at Rs. 200 per liter. In almost all the cases, the customer ends up buying the honey and there have been only a vey occasions, where the customer has left without buying the honey, because the price is high. He has never had a customer, who feels that the quality of the honey sold by him is bad or not up to the mark. Last year he has managed to sell around a ton of honey to retail buyers. The peak selling season overlaps with the peak honey flow season (May-June). Last year, during these two months alone he has managed to sell around 400 kg of honey.

As for the institutional sales, he sells his honey to two medicine making firms, one located in Chennai and the other in Nagerkoil. The medicine making firm located in Nagerkoil is T. S. Vijay and Co., an indigenous medicine maker. He has been supplying honey to this firm since the early nineties. Contact to this firm was provided by his friend Kanagaraj. He is very confident that this firm will buy honey only from him, as long as he is in business. He sells honey to this firm at the price of Rs. 120 per kg. They buy around 500 kg per year. The firm based in Chennai is an ayurvedic medicine making unit. He has started supplying honey to them through trade contacts, which he is unwilling to reveal. He has a constant standing order of 500 kg of honey per year, to be sent to them in two lots at a price of Rs. 150 per kg. He sends his honey to them in twenty or fifty liter plastic cans. He has to smuggle the honey across the check post to Sathymangalam, from where he sends it to the recipients by TVS or ABT parcel service. It costs him around Rs. 1 to 2 per liter of honey sent through the parcel service. He transports his honey across the check post by lorry or mini lorry.

Once when he was transporting the honey, he has intercepted on the road by the forest guards. He had around one hundred liters of honey with him. He tried to save his stock and himself by trying to offer them a bribe. But the guards were adamant on arresting him and seizing his stock and the vehicle used for transportation. But he immediately threw his honey cans in to the forest slopes, so that the forest guards did not have any evidence against him. He managed to get away from being arrested. He feels that it would not be possible for him to form a nexus with the forest guards, because they demand a lot and if he were to meet their demands, his business would become unviable(Source: interview with honey trader Mansoor Khan).

4.5.3. Ganapathy:

He is forty years old and lives on the Sathymangalam-Mysore road. Other than trading in honey, he also trades in animal horns and skin, about which he is unwilling to talk about. He has been arrested four times on charges of dealing with animal products. He buys honey from the honey hunters only when he needs it. During times of need, he contacts honey hunters and buys from them. He does not have the habit of advancing money to the honey hunters but just pays them when he receives the honey from them. He deals in kg measures, unlike other traders, who deal in liter measures. He weighs the honey brought to his house using a weighing scale and pays Rs. 50 per kg of honey.

He believes that contacts that he has built over a period of time and his mobile phone play a critical part in his business. He sells the honey only to his established contact. The buyer calls him up and enquires about the availability of the desired quantity of honey, the price and the time when he can pick it up. Once the above mentioned have been agreed upon, his customer comes and picks up the stock of honey. His customers are from Sathamangalam, Erode and Coimbatore. They normally buy 5 or 10 kg of honey for domestic use once a year (for them and their friends and relatives. He sells it them


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