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Honey Markets of the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve (NBR)

Info: 29547 words (118 pages) Dissertation
Published: 17th Dec 2021

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Tagged: Environmental Studies


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.


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.


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.


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 ,




No of hhlds

No. Hhlds inter-viewed

No.of Honey hunting Hhlds

Trade Aspects



Chamraj Nagar


Sholiga, Kannadiga




Collection is banned.




Tamil Nadu





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




Tamil Nadu





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



Chamraj Nagar


Sholigas, Kannadiga2 Badaga3




Collection is banned.




Tamil Nadu





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




Tamil Nadu





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




Tamil Nadu





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




Tamil Nadu





Honey is collected mostly for personal consumption.


Koduthen mund


Tamil Nadu

Toda, Others 4




Cerana honey collected for consumption but not regularly.




Tamil Nadu

Badaga, Others




None of the households are engaged in HH.




Tamil Nadu





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




Tamil Nadu





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




Tamil Nadu

Kasava/Irula/Jenu Kurumba




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





Kattunaicken, Paniyas




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








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.





Padinaickens, Paniyas




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





















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








































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 at a price of Rs. 80 per kg of honey. He feels that there is hardly a need to bargain with his customers because they have been his regular customers over a long period of time and they buy it at the price which he quotes. He expects the buyer to come with the cans for transporting the honey. He feels that he being a Hindu makes him more desirable to trade with for his regular customers than few other traders in the village, who are not Hindus. He also feels that it is not a lucrative business to sell it to the passer bys, because they buy in small quantities, bargain for a long time over the price and could also be the forest guard's men, who could turn him in(Source: interview with honey trader Ganapathy).


The village of Nala is located in the Nilambur region of the Nilgiri biosphere reserve. We selected this site because formal marketing channels exist here and the area being a honey rich locality. The formal marketing channels mentioned above are the channels through which honey is legally supposed to flow i.e. through the Cooperative Societies or the VSS. Though formal marketing channels exists, there are sales outside it which takes place with the help of traders or tribals themselves make sales in small quantities.

In this study I have tried to understand the key players in marketing channel of honey, their volumes and prices and the trend of changing patterns in the flow of honey.

5.1. Interview with the Honey Hunters

5.1.1. Najar (NA -18)

He is a honey hunter who belongs to the village of Nala. He has been a honey collector ever since he was 14-15 years of age. He collects almost all types of honey- cerana honey, dammer, florea and dorsata honey. To collect dorsata honey he goes in a group of 4-5 people. In the village of Nala there are about 15-20 honey hunting households and roughly 8-10 honey hunting groups. There maybe one or two person from the same family in a honey hunting group. The honey hunters interviewed by me were all from different groups.

According to him honey season starts from March and extends up to June. There are some people in the village who venture into the forests daily in the season to collect honey but it is not necessary that they get honey every time.

He along with his group members go to the forests at least ten times a month. Each time he collects close to 5-6 kilograms of honey. In a month he might collect about 30 kilograms of honey. The returns from the sale of honey are divided equally among the members. He himself is a honey trader. He and his wife Chitra sells a part of their honey as well as collect honey from other hunters and sells it to a trader at Munderi. The relationship with trader in the village does not change each time and is generally based on mutual understanding so that both the parties benefit by the trade. In a ten year period they think they had at least 3 to 4 good years of honey collection and 2 to 3 bad years. When asked about what quantity of honey they collect in a good year he replied that thirty kilograms of honey per month is a good years' collection. In a bad year they may also end up collecting no honey. When asked about what contributes to a good yield- more bees nests or more honey per bees nests he replied that it is a combination of both which is responsible for the variation.

5.1.2. Nalab (NA-49)

He is also a honey hunter in the Nala village. He has been engaging in honey hunting right from his 15th year of age. But he started honey hunting in this village of Nala 4 years back. He is from another village but married a girl from this village and settled here. He has so far collected both dorsata honey and dammer honey. In a year he and his group manage to collect some 200 kgs of dorsata honey, 12 kilograms of dammer honey and 25 kilograms of wax. His honey hunting group consists of four people. More or less the members of the group remains the same throughout, at least two members of the group always remain. He goes for honey hunting 8 to 10 times a month. In some cases they get close to 10- 15 kgs of honey in one visit and some cases they may return disappointed. Last year he sold some quantity of honey to the society at the rate of Rs 60 per kg. He claims that society is not functional now and so the entire quantity of honey collected is sold to the VSS at the rate of Rs 70 this year and Rs 65 last year. He claimed that two years back he had given some 25 kilogrammes of honey to a private trader in the village named Chitra, when he was in need of money. Now he sells the entire portion of honey to VSS.

5.1.3. Shothan (NA-27)

He is a honey hunter from Nala village. He collects honey like his other neighbours, from the forests between the periods of February to May. He collects dorsata and florea honey which he mixes and gives to the society. Occasionally he gets dammer honey which is mainly in small quantities and collected during the rainy season. (Vaniyampuzha region is the only part of Nilambur where dammer honey collection is noted). The price that society gave for one kilo of honey is Rs 55 and VSS price was Rs 45 (from what he mentioned).

His honey hunting group consists of 5 people and they go for honey collection two times a week during the season. In a year they collect around 150 kg (if it is a good year) and 60 kg (if it is a bad year). On an average they obtain around 100 kgs in a year. The return from honey is divided equally among the five members. Some part of honey is also sold as retail in amounts of 1-2 kg. The local people come to the hamlet for buying these items.

5.1.4. Usav (NA-14)

He is one of the senior most honey hunters in the village. He is presently not engaged in honey hunting as he was injured badly by a bear attack once while collecting some tubers from the forest. Earlier he used to go for honey hunting with his son mainly in the honey season between March to June. From a collection i.e. one comb could yield anywhere between 5-6 kilograms. On an average in a year they used to collect 80 kilograms of honey. They consider earning 4 to 10 kgs in a year as a bad year and in a good year the collection should be close to 150 to 200 kgs.

The honey collected is given to the VSS and some part of honey is also sold to Citra who is a honey trader in the village. Before the formation of VSS honey was sold to the society. He thinks that society was more beneficial than the VSS since they provided them bonus and other facilities like ration- rice, pulses etc.

Note: While interacting with the honey hunters it was seen that there was a difference in the prices (as mentioned by them) offered by society and VSS. There was a constant effort from their part to reduce the per kilo price. In the current year of 2007-08 the price of 1 kilo of honey was Rs. 65 as offered by the society and Rs 75 as offered by the VSS. This year around 965 kilograms of honey was collected from the village and majority of it went to the VSS and rest to private traders and small quantity through retail sale by adivasis themselves. The private traders do not have a uniform price. The price at which they bought honey from tribals this year ranges from Rs 80 to Rs 100 per kilo. But they see to it that their price is at least marginally higher than the VSS and Society prices. The society was not able to procure any honey from the village this year.

5.2. Nilambur Tribal Cooperative Society

This tribal cooperative society is one among the 31 tribal cooperative societies operating in the state of Kerala. It is headed by the apex federation of the societies which is situated in Thrissur. This society was formed in the year 1975.

This is the only tribal cooperative society operating in the Nilambur region and it caters to the collection of minor forest produce of the North and South division of the forest range. The forest produce collected should be sold only through these cooperative societies.

But now under the participatory forest management of the Kerala government, villages have formed Vana Samrakshana Samities (VSS). They are responsible for collecting the minor forest produce including honey. This has greatly reduced the importance of society. The VSS with the assistance of Keystone or otherwise engage in minor processing of forest produce like filtering and packing and they sell this at a premium on their own. Now VSS on their own have started marketing honey as a result of which the societies are not able to procure honey as much as it was able to do previously.

Honey collection takes place from February to June in a year. Mainly the honey collected is from Apis dorsata even though some quantity of dammer honey is also collected. The major honey collection areas in Nilambur are Vaniyampuzha, Kunjakolli and Manjeri. The major tribes found in this area are cholanaickens and kattunaickens who are traditionally the honey hunters and paniyas and arunadan who are non honey hunters and they work as wage labourers in the areas in and around Nilambur.

The society at present has 1162 members of which 824 are male and 338 are female. The four honey hunters interviewed above are also members of this society. The society has 11 collection centers spread across Nilambur and the names of the centers are

  • Manjeri
  • Punjakolli
  • Pattakarimbu
  • Kunjakolli
  • Vaniyampuzha
  • Chempra
  • Appenkapu
  • Kalkulam
  • Pulakkapara
  • Vennayakodu
  • Palakkayam

The honey hunters are actually given 80% of the selling price. The selling price of honey as in 2006-2007 is 110, so the honey hunters get 88 rupees. When the honey hunters bring in the honey in the same year they are given only Rs 65 and the remaining money i.e. Rs 23 is given as bonus to them during Onam. The margin i.e. Rs 22 or the 20 % of the sale price is again splitted. 5% of the sale price is given to the federation and remaining 15% is used by the society in meeting the administrative expenses like salaries to its employees and transportation expenses for bringing the honey from collection center to the society. With the profit of the cooperative, they bought some 90 acres of rubber estate, 60 acres of coconut farm in Chokkadu area and distributed it to the 56 families with 3 acres to each family. This took place in the year of 2001 and as a result of this huge cost incurred by the society it had to face some serious financial crunch and so decided to remove the post of secretary in an effort to reduce administrative expenses.

Now there is an acting secretary by name Mr. Gireesh who is actually one of the senior staff and presently having the additional charge of secretary.

According to society officials, around 10 tonnes of honey flows into the society every year. Of which the three main contributing regions in Nilambur are Vaniyampuzha, Manjeri and Punchakolli. The village Nala falls in the region of Vaniyampuzha. Honey sales through the Cooperative Society can be wholesale or retail. The main customers of this retail trade are local people of Nilambur who come to the society and buys honey in volume of 1-2 kg. Local Ayurvedic shop owners and medical practitioners are those who buy the honey at wholesale level. Every year some 3 to 4 tonnes of honey is sold as retail from the Nilambur society. Wholesale refers to any quantity more than 100 kg and this sale generally happens with the approval of the federation in Thrissur. The sale i.e. transaction of money happens in Federation and customers come to the society with their respective bills and honey is taken. The maximum quantity that was sold as wholesale by the society is 1000 kgs. Generally local ayurvedic shop owners are the people who buy the honey in bulk.

At present the society has a dead stock of 5 tonnes of honey which was accumulated over 2 to 3 years which will be sent to the federation for auctioning. The federation at Thrissur conducts bimonthly auctions for honey and this is done region wise. Last auction took place in Kozhikode but products from all the societies are included for the auction.

5.2.1. Governance

The chairman of the society is the collector (at present Mr. M.C. Mohandas) and its governing body has 8 district officers and 5 tribal representatives. The tribal representatives are elected annually and they are from Chokkadu, Manjeri (only place where cholanaickens live), Punchakolli, Kalkulam and Vaniyampuzha.

5.2.2. Threat to the societies

As part of participatory forest management of Kerala forest department, government has entrusted the collection of forest produce under the supervision of Vana Samrakashana Samitis popularly called as the VSS. These are formed for a village and in addition to engaging in NTFP collection they also undertake some activities in the forests and adjoining areas which require manual labour. So it also provides wage employment to some tribals in the area. When the society offers a price of Rs 65 to the hunters, VSS provides Rs 75 to honey which is collected hygienically and the society price to the usual honey and so people give honey to the latter. As a result the society is facing threat from the procurement side because of VSS. Earlier the VSS used to procure honey from the honey hunters and route their sales through the society. But now they have started small scale processing and marketing of honey on their own. On the other hand the society is also not able to make proper sales and around 5 tonnes of honey is still in dead stock. The explanation given by the society officials was that with the advent of hive rearing of honeybees, local hive honey is available in plenty and at a lower cost e.g. Rs 50/ kg. The main customers of honey from society are Ayurvedic practitioners and shop owners and they substitute the wild honey with cheap hive honey available in the market.

In spite of all the short comings, the society plays a very important role to the honey hunters even now. Their prices acts as a support price to the honey hunters and prevent the local prices from falling drastically. If the society did not exist the traders could have charged them low prices for their honey and the honey hunters would have been forced to sell their honey to them due to lack of other sale options.

5.3. Vana Samrakshana Samitis (VSS)

According to the Kerala State Forest Policy, conservation of forests will be developed as a people's movement. Participatory approach will be strengthened and extended. The department will enter into partnerships with the Vana Samrakshna Samiti's (VSSs), Eco Development Committees (EDCs), and other participatory institutions for the protection of forests and conservation of biodiversity.

In Nilambur VSS had their foundation in 2001, they started functioning in the year 2003-2004. All the honey hunters in the village are members of VSS for their empowerment and for scientific collection and value addition of NTFP, and for forest protection. The VSS is responsible for sustainable management of NTFP's and also undertakes activities to augment scarce resources like reeds and canes. The tribal people will be trained through VSS in improvised methods of collection, harvesting, processing of NTFPs and in producing value added forest products from them and in marketing the same. The Vana Samrakshana Samithies are also encouraged to cultivate medicinal tree species and species yielding non-wood forest produce as per existing norms and guidelines. A charitable company/organization called "Vanasree" is planned to be formed on the lines of Kudumbasree, for processing the NTFP and marketing the products of the Vanasamrakshana Samithies in the State.

In the village of Nala the honey collected after the operationalisation of VSS flows mainly to them. For the last two years the society has recieved absolutely no honey and a large portion of the share goes to the VSS. The earlier honey collector for society is now the collector for VSS. So the honey hunters are not very sure whether the honey flows to the society or VSS. The VSS have differentiated prices for honey; not every honey hunters get Rs 75 per kilo. The Nala VSS have a group of 10-15 members in area who venture out into the forest and collect honey hygienically using clean vessels and towels. This honey is collected seperately and sold by the VSS themselves in bottles of 500g and 250g under the brand name 'Malabar Forest Honey'.

store meet or mela organized by the forest department. The expenses incurred in taking the produce to the melas are borne by the forest officials. This kind of sales and marketing happens only for a small quantity of 300 kilos of honey every year and this initiative took place in 2006 with the setting up of a small scale processing unit. The rest of honey is collected at the same price as that of the society i.e. at the rate of Rs 65 per kilo and routed to the society for sales. The extra amount of Rs 10 per kilo is given as an incentive for the honey hunter who brings in clean honey which can be packed and sold. The 'Malabar Forest Honey' is sold at the rate of Rs.100 for 500g and Rs.50 for 250g.

5.3.1. Functioning of the VSS

The NA Adivasi Vana Samrakshana Samiti consists of 361 members from 5 different villages namely Thandakal, Nala, Chalikkal, Ettapara and Narangapoyil. The major honey providers in these villages are Thandakal and Nala. All the members in the VSS are tribals. It has an executive body comprising of nine members of whom five are males and four females. The only non-tribal in this group would be the Secretary i.e. Mr. Dayanandan who is a representative of the government. Every two years this executive committee is elected by the members of the VSS.

While marketing honey, the VSS incurs various expenses for activities like filtering, labeling etc. Twenty-five percent of the profit derived from the sales of honey after deducting all the expenses is saved for the 361 members. Using this fund the VSS carries out various welfare schemes like providing school uniforms for children and meeting the hospital expenses of the members. Seventy-five percent of the profit should be saved in the name of the members in a bank but presently the ten member sales team is dividing the profit among themselves. They claim that the volume of honey sold through VSS is less and the profit barely meets the salary requirements of the tem member sales team.

Another peculiar feature of the VSS in Nala is that the main honey collector i.e. the member of VSS who collects honey from honey hunters on behalf of VSS tries to sell a part of the honey that is collected, illegally outside to private traders and do not account this volume of honey in the VSS register. His name is Mr. Raman, he is a Kattunaicken himself but do not engage in honey hunting. Previously he was in charge of collecting honey for the society but now he does the same for the VSS. He sells a part of honey to some private trader because the latter provides him a higher price of Rs 85 to Rs 95. The tribals sell honey to him at the rate of Rs 75 in this year and he in turn sells it to private trader at the rate mentioned above. This margin of Rs 10 to 20 is realized by him per kilo. There is not much idea about what quantity he sells in this manner.

5.4. Private Traders

The information on the names and details of honey traders were largely made on the basis of interviews conducted with honey hunters. When asked about the private traders to whom they sell their honey, these were the names that I could obtain. There are about 5-6 honey traders buying honey from Nala. Citra is the only honey trader residing in the village. I have interviewed three of them and the selection of these traders was based on their importance (in terms of the amount of honey they buy and their regularity in buying i.e. whether they buy it every year from the village).

It was also seen that the other two traders live far from Nala and do not buy honey from the village every year. Hence these three traders were interviewed.

5.4.1. Adbul Leif

He is a well known honey trader in the Nilambur region. He has been practicing this vocation for the past twenty five years and this is the only source of income for him and his family. This has been his traditional occupation passed on to him from his father. His family consists of two sons studying outside Kerala and a wife. Honey collection and its sales is mainly a seasonal activity so his trade encompasses a wide variety of other NTFP products. He collects medicinal plants, spices, baskets woven by tribals as well as other NTFP products like honey and wax from the tribals. Some of the tribals when in need of money approach him and return the debt in kind as forest produce. When asked about the amount given and the interest charged, he replied that he gives small loans of Rs 5000 to 10,000 for a period of one or two years. He said he charges them minimal rate of interest and some without interest. He was not willing to disclose the interest rate. There are some who give the produce and get money for it. This year he has collected about 100 kgs of honey and 10-25 kgs of wax from different parts of Nilambur and has given a price of Rs 95/kg for honey and Rs 100/kg for wax. He sells it with a margin of Rs 30 i.e. at retail price of Rs 125/kg. The sale of honey is carried out by him. With the forest produce collected he goes to distant places like Wynad, Kollam and Kottayam and sells the produce there at a premium, but he has to meet transportation expenses for this.

Adbul Leif said that few years ago, some local people claimed that he was exploiting tribals and attacked him. They burnt the entire medicinal plants worth Rs 50,000 and because he is engaged in illegal trading he was reluctant to inform the matter to the police. Many a times the tribals approach him for loans which is repaid through the forest produce brought by them but now the NTFP collection is low and honey hunters are not able to repay in kind. This has put Latif in to a debt trap and he is trying to sell his land to clear off the debt. So he has stopped giving debts to honey hunters and pays them only according what they have brought.

He has observed that over a period of time the quantity of NTFP products reaching him from the tribals has reduced. When asked about the reasons for low NTFP collection he replied that forests resources have reduced and the new generation of tribals are not interested in this vocation. On enquiring whether entry of new traders into this field could be a reason for less quantity reaching him he replied that he does'nt think so.

5.4.2. Sriheff

This trader lives very close to Nala village. He collects minor forest produce from the tribals of this particular village. This is his traditional occupation being passed on from his father. Earlier when his father and grandfather were doing this activity they were the sole buyers of the produce, but with the advent of societies and VSS his activity became illegal. This is because after the formation of society he cannot purchase products directly from tribals but only through the society. But he still continues to buy directly from tribals even though it is illegal. He said that during the honey season the tribals themselves bring honey to his home. He offers them a price higher than the society and the VSS and at the same time lesser what he would have to pay if he were to purchase from the society or VSS. In this way he satisfies the honey hunters as well as himself.

Apart from this business, he owns around 5 acres of land and practices agriculture. The trading provides him close to 40 % of his yearly income. The trading activity of honey and wax is seasonal and now he collects only these products from the tribals. He also gives loans to adivasis which they repay in cash as well as kind (honey). He claimed that lending money is not considered as a business by him and is given in small amounts of Rs 1000 to Rs 5000. He gives them money on the basis of personal acquaintance with them. This year (2007-08) he bought 60 kilograms of honey from honey hunters. He also bought some 200 kilograms from the VSS last year (2006-07). He buys honey at the rate of Rs 80-85 and dammer honey at the rate of Rs 95 per kilo. The honey is then bought by local ayurvedic traders from him for Rs 100 per kilo and dammer honey at Rs 150 per kilo. Last year he also collected some 7 kilograms of wax which is a rare phenomenon and this was bought at Rs. 110 per kilo. According to his opinion there is a shortage on the availability of NTFP products mainly because the younger generation of tribals do not venture in to the forest for honey collection instead they go for other wage employment.

5.4.3. Citra

She is a trader living inside the village of Nala. She is a Kattunaicken herself and is the wife of NA-14(honey hunter interviewed before). This family owns a grocery shop within the village itself and gives commodities in exchange of honey and wax. There are also other people in the village who give honey and get paid in cash. In a year she collects about 200 kilos of honey and 10 kilos of wax from Nala. She buys honey at the rate of Rs 80 from hunters and sells it to the agent at Munderi who comes 4-5 times in a year to the village to transport honey. Wax is bought at the rate of Rs 100 per kilo and honey is bought by the Munderi agent for Rs 95. A small portion of retail sale also takes place through the shop that they own. The trade relation between the Munderi trader and Citra is a permanent one as she does not give the honey to anybody else. This transaction is happening continuously for the fourth year now.

Note: the numbers inside the ovals represent the price per kilo.

Source of data: VSS records and records of Nilambur Cooperative Society. Price of honey sold through private traders and retail sale is approximate and largely made on the basis of interviews and triangulation.

Note: The numbers inside the ovals represent the volume in tonnes.

The dotted line represents illegal transaction of honey from VSS to private traders.

Source of data: VSS records and records of Nilambur Cooperative Society. Volume of honey sold through private traders and retail sale is approximate and largely made on the basis of interviews and triangulation.

6. Perur

The village Perur is located in Tamil Nadu on the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border. The village is located inside the Mudumalai wild life sanctuary, recently named as a tiger reserve. As this village lies inside the tiger reserve, any non-native of the village entering it will have to take the forest officials permission to do so.

The people of the village are of two castes, namely the Kattunaickens (Tribal community) and the Chettys (Non-tribal community, classified as backward class). The village has about sixty house holds, of which around twenty five belong to the Kattunaickens. The Kattunaickens do not own any land in the village and are dependent on wage labour and NTFP collection from the forests. The Chettys own land in the village and are dependent on agriculture and wage labour for livelihood. They venture into the forests only to gather firewood and do not engage in honey hunting (interview with village people).

The village is five kilometers off the main road from Mukaty and is connected to it by a mud road. It takes around twenty minutes to reach there by jeep and around one and a half hours by foot. There is another way to the village, a small pathway that goes through the forest. It takes around an hour to reach the village from the main road through this path. The villagers travel in this path only. The nearest town to the village is Pitherkadu, which is around ten kilometers from the village.

6.1. Honey hunters

The kattunaickens of Perur do not collect NTFPs other than honey. They feel that working for daily wages at the tea or coffee estates is more lucrative compared to NTFP collection. The village of Perur is organized into hamlets, with the kattunaickens staying together in a few hamlets and the Chettys in separate hamlets. The kattunaickens go for honey hunting in groups and in most cases the groups are formed by people belonging to the same hamlet. The honey hunting groups are known by the names of the hamlets that they hail from. If the group has members from more than one hamlet, the group is known by the name of the hamlet from which most members come or from which the leader comes. The following are the different groups of honey hunters in Perur.

6.2. Honey Hunting Groups

6.2.1. Group 1: Sepadu

The information presented under this section has been obtained from a group interview with all the honey hunters belonging to this group. This is the first hamlet one would find while entering Perur. This honey hunting group consists of members from four families. The names of the heads of the four families are Chenan, Chandran, Chinnapan and Karian. All the above mentioned honey hunters are around forty to fifty years of age and belong to the same hamlet, Sepadu. Their fathers were also honey hunters and belonged to the same group. They learnt honey hunting from their fathers and are now in the process of teaching the art to their sons. A honey hunter in their village starts learning it at the age of twelve and becomes a reasonable honey hunter after three seasons. All the members of their group are proficient in performing all the operations done during honey hunting and take turns to do it. The fathers of the group members were in the same group and they also now belong to the same group. They believe that their sons will also continue the same. They are involved in honey hunting in the months of May and June till the south-west monsoon sets in. They do honey hunting both on trees as well as on rocks.

They divide the money realized from the honey in equal proportions between the honey hunters who have gone for honey hunting. If the honey hunter's son goes for honey hunting, he gets a share in addition to his fathers share. The provisions required for honey hunting are brought from one of the honey hunters' house, each one of them taking turns to bring the same. The expenses to be met for honey hunting are shared by them equally. Either all of them contribute for the expense when it has to be made or one of them makes it and he claims it when the money is realized by selling the honey and the remaining money is shared by the members of the group. The honey hunters bring the collected honey from the forests in plastic cans and store it in one of the hunters' house. It is normally kept in Chenan's house. Informally, Chenan is considered to be the group leader.

Long back, the collected honey and wax had to be sold to the forest guards and the price offered by them was very low and was fixed by them arbitrarily. They have been selling their honey and wax to shops in Pitherkadu and to the trader at Alathur only for the past fifteen years. They also feel that now they have an incentive to spend time honey hunting because of the market available for honey. Earlier, during their fathers' days, they used to collect honey only for their self consumption. They rarely got a good price for it. They found it better to go for wage labour than for honey hunting.

Till last year (2007) they have been selling their honey to Pitherkadu, as long as they could manage to find a buyer there and the rest was sold to the trader at Alathur. From this year onwards, they have been avoiding selling honey to the Alathur trader. They even find it more profitable to sell the honey to the Kallur society than to the shops at Pitherkadu if the volume is high (more than a hundred kilograms). This year they have been selling small quantities to the shops at Pitherkadu and the large quantities to the Kallur society. They also manage to sell small quantity of honey (around ten liters) to the Chetty households inside the village. Till last year, they have also been able to sell some honey (around twenty liters) to households in Pitherkadu. They sell it at Rs 73 per kilogram (Rs 100 per liter) to Perur people and at Rs 88 per kilogram (Rs 120 per liter) to outsiders. When they go to the Kallur society to sell their honey, two of them (taking turns) carry their honey to Pulpalli through Alathur and from there they hire a jeep to the Kallur society. They sell the honey to the Kallur society only if they get a minimum of forty to fifty kilograms, otherwise they sell it to shops at Pitherkadu. They sell their honey to any shop in Pitherkadu. They are not particular about selling it to any one shop in particular. The reason why they have changed from selling their honey to the trader at Alathur to the Kallur society is because they felt that they were being cheated in the weight of honey. A twenty liter can, when filled with honey weighs around twenty eight kilograms at the Kallur society but weighs only twenty six kilograms when weighed at the Alathur traders shop. The Alathur trader also pays for one kilogram less. This would mean that they get paid less for three kilograms for every twenty liters or twenty eight kilograms of honey in addition to being paid Rs ten less per kilogram. But when they have to go to Kallur society, two of them cannot go to work for a day in addition to paying around three hundred and fifty rupees for the jeep. The daily wages paid here is Rs 100. But they still prefer to take the honey to the Kallur society, for they find this to be more remunerative. Wherever they sell their honey, they buy their groceries from one of the shops at Pitherkadu and also consume liquor from the liquor shop at Pitherkadu. They keep small quantities of honey in their house only to give it to kids or to be had with medicine. Every year, they loose around ten kilograms of honey to the forest officials, given as bribery.

They are not very particular about collecting wax. This is because of the processing required before they can sell it. They have to boil it, filter off impurities, pour it and make a cake out of it from a bamboo pole. When a lot of honey is collected and they feel the load is very heavy, they just leave the wax in the forest. They do not go back to collect it. They bring the wax, only when the quantity of honey is less and they can also carry the wax along with the honey. Last year they have collected about twenty kilograms of wax and this year about five kilograms. Till last year, they used to sell their wax to the trader at Alathur for Rs eighty a kilogram. This year, they have been selling it to the Kallur society at Rs ninety a kilogram.

6.2.2. Group 2: Perurmulai

The information presented under this section has been obtained from an interview with the honey hunter Vellan. This group consists of three members Vellan, Kunjan and Sankaran. They also take their sons along with them for honey hunting. Vellan is considered to be the informal leader of the group. They do honey hunting mostly in the trees and rarely on the rocks. Till last year, they were selling their honey to shops at Pitherkadu and to the trader at Alathur. When they sell their honey at Pitherkadu, they sell most of their honey to M. A. Hakeem stores. They also buy their groceries from this shop only. Till 2006, they did not have any problems with the honey they were selling to the trader at Alathur. He accepted only a hundred kilograms of honey from him last year. After that, the trader accused them of mixing jaggery syrup with honey and has stopped buying honey from them. This year, they have sold most of their honey to M. A. Hakeem stores. Only once they have sold their honey (fifty kilograms) to the Kallur society. They feel that the exercise is worth it only if they have atleast a hundred kilograms to sell. They are unable to sell honey directly to non honey hunting households ether inside or outside the village.

They were not interested in gathering wax, because of the cleaning problem. Some time back, their wax had been rejected by the trader at Alathur because it contained impurities. Other practices followed by this group are similar to the ones followed by the previous group.

6.2.3. Group 3: Nelliankunnu

The information presented under this section has been obtained from a group interview with the honey hunter Vellan and his brother Pasubhan. The members of this group are Vellan, Vasu, Marian and Kunjan. All the above mentioned honey hunters belong to the same family. The head of the family is Pasubhan. He is more than eighty years old and is no longer involved in honey hunting. He acts as a guide to the group. Vellan, his younger brother acts as the leader of the group. Vasu and Marian are sons of Pasubhan and were taught honey hunting by him. Pasubhan, Vasu and Marian live in Nelliankunnu. Kunjan is the younger brother of Pasubhan and Vellan, but lives in Sepadu. Even though he lives in Sepadu, he goes for honey hunting with the Nelliankunnu group. They also have the practice of taking their sons along with them when they go for honey hunting. The above named honey hunters go for honey hunting all the time. But their sons do not go with them all the time. The decision weather their sons should be going with them will be decided based on where they will be hunting the honey and the availability of honey. Pasubhan feels that thirty years back, there was a lot of honey available in the forests. There was so much honey available there that they couldn't possibly collect every thing. Now the amount of honey in the forests has drastically come down. He also feels that the reason for this is the climatic change with rainfall becoming highly erratic. He also added that only for the past fifteen twenty years they have been able to sell honey and wax to the shops at Pitherkadu and to the trader at Alathur. Before that, the only buyers were the forest guards and they paid very little for their gatherings. Before that, they used to collect honey only for domestic consumption (the time when honey was sold to forest guards is not correctly known). During those days, they used to give honey freely to non honey hunting households in the village. Now a day, they sell only negligible quantity of honey to the non honey hunting families in the village.

They sell their honey only to shops at Pitherkadu or to the trader at Alathur. Last year they sold fifty kilograms of honey to the Kallur society. But they do not believe that the returns are worth the pains that they have to undergo. They did not go to the society after that. They sell most of their honey to the shops at Pitherkadu and the rest to the trader at Alathur. This year, so far they are the only group to have sold any honey to the trader at Alathur. They are also pretty sure that the honey that they do not sell at Pitherkadu will be sold to the trader at Alathur. They were also not interested in wax. They have collected around ten kilograms of wax for the past year and for this year. They sell their wax to the trader at Alathur for Rs eighty a kilogram.

6.2.4. Group 4: Kaithaikattu

The information presented under this section has been obtained from a group interview with the honey hunters Rajan and Vasu. The members of this group are Rajan, Vasu, Mani and Krishnan. Their ages are twenty six, twenty nine, twenty and thirty-five respectively. Of the four members, Rajan and Vasu belong to Kaithaikattu; Mani and Krishnan belong to Perurmulai. Rajan is considered to be the most skillful honey hunter in the village and has been doing it since he was ten years old. He learnt honey hunting from his father. Vasu has been a friend of his for a long time and has learnt honey hunting from him. Even though the other two members of this group are from Sepadu, they prefer going with them than with the honey hunters from Sepadu.

This group is considered to be the best in the village. This is because only the four of them go for honey hunting all the time and still they manage to collect more honey than the other groups, which has an average group size of six (honey hunters with their sons included). Even though they collect honey from both trees and rocks, they prefer hunting from rocks because of the higher yield. They sell their honey to the Kallur society and never to the shops at Pitherkadu or the trader at Alathur. The number of members going along with the honey depends on the quantity being carried by them. They normally take a walk to the Kallur society. They manage to sell around fifty liters (seventy kilograms) of honey to people in the village every year. They sell it at the price of Rs 100 per liter (Rs 73 per kilogram). Most of the Chetty families buy honey from them. The wax collection is also similar to other groups in the village, but for the quantity collected. They have collected around twenty five kilograms of wax last year and have collected ten kilograms this year. They sell their wax along with the honey to the Kallur society.

6.3. Options Available for the Honey Hunter

During the interviews, it was found that all the honey hunters have the habit of drinking. It was interesting to note that the honey hunters do not have the habit of saving money. They have a need to sell their honey as soon as they get it. The honey is sold on the very next day of collecting it. Amount of honey collected has no impact of the time of sale of the honey. But the amount of honey collected influences the place of sale of honey. All the honey hunting groups drink and buy utilities required for their house, as soon as they sell the honey. The following are the options available to a honey hunter to sell his honey (Source: interviews with honey hunters)

6.3.1. Sell the honey to the Chettys in the village

The Chettys in Perur go the forest only to collect firewood. Some chettys employ the Kattunaickens to collect firewood for them. Chettys do not go into the forest to gather NTFP. The honey that they need for their consumption has to be bought from the Kattunaickens. The Chetty households buy one to two liters of honey every year. The Chettys buy honey to eat it as such, as a medicine, to mix and eat with other medicines or to eat it with Jack fruit (considered as a delicacy). The Chettys buy honey from any of the honey hunters. They just ask them for honey during the season and if available, they buy it and stock it. Honey within the village is sold in whisky bottles, measuring half or one liter at the price of Rs. 80 to 100 per liter.

The quantity of honey that could be sold in the village must be around eighty five kilograms (sixty liters) per annum. A meager quantity considering that the total flow of honey in the village must be in the range of two to three thousand kilograms per annum (one liter of honey weighs 1.37 kilograms). The honey hunters do not consider it as a real opportunity to sell honey (Source: interviews with honey hunters and buyers in Perur).

6.4.2. Sell to consumers in Pitherkadu

The honey hunters can sell their honey to the residents of Pitherkadu, the nearest town. But here, the problem is that people are ready to buy honey only from honey hunters they are familiar with. They do not buy honey from a honey hunter selling on the road, because they are not sure about the quality of the honey and the right price for it. Selling the honey to passer by's on the road involves the risk of being caught by the policemen and only small quantities of honey can be sold in this fashion. So both the honey hunter and the consumer are not comfortable with it and prefer dealing with a grocery shopkeeper. Only one of the honey hunting groups used to do this and this year, even they haven't sold it to consumers at Pitherkadu (Source: interviews with honey hunters and shop keepers in Pitherkadu).

6.4.3. Sell to bulk buyers in Pitherkadu

The honey hunters can sell their produce to bulk honey buyers in Pitherkadu. The bulk honey buyers in Pitherkadu comprises of three grocery shop keepers, namely M.A.Hakeem stores, Shereena stores and Sentil stores, a Puja shop (sells items to offer puja to god) and a cloth store. Hakeem stores

The shopkeeper of this grocer store is considered to be the biggest honey trader in the region. He has dealt with around half a ton of honey in the last year. He fixes the price of honey that he would be buying after the Kallur society fixes the price at which it would be buying honey. He deals with weight measures. Last year and this year, the price fixed by the society was Rs. 70 per kilograms. The honey dealer at Alathur buys honey at Rs. 10 less than the price at which the Kallur society buys honey. Last year he bought honey a Rs. 60 per Kilograms. The shop keeper had fixed his price in between the two at Rs. 65 per kilograms. He does not operate at a fixed price. He varies it as the situation demands. The factors that determine the price of the honey are season, amount of honey bought by the honey hunter, the present order that he has for honey and the quality of the honey.

He pays five to ten Rs. More per kilograms of honey brought during off season (August-April), other parameters remaining the same. He pays Rs. Five less, when he feels that the honey is not pure or it contains certain impurities and has not been properly filtered. To check the quality of honey (water adulteration), he places a drop of it on a piece of paper. If the paper gets wet, then the honey is adulterated with water. Adulterating the honey with water affects the shelf life of honey, bringing it down from a few years to a few months. To check for adulteration with jagery syrup, he tastes it. If he finds that the honey is adulterated, he rejects it. When he has a big order to be met, he does not mind paying more for it to make sure that he is able to meet the order in time. During such a time, he also pays more to the honey hunters who bring him high volume of honey. The shopkeeper has to buy honey required for a year during the season itself (May-June), anticipating it well in advance. He relies on the personal contacts with the honey hunters he has built with the honey hunters over a period of time. He pays the honey hunters with cash on receiving the honey. He does not advance any money to the honey hunters.

He sells the procured honey in retail as well as in wholesale. He sells his honey in retail in his own grocery shop in quantities ranging from 100 ml and upwards. He sells it as loose honey, bottling it when the customer asks for it. He keeps most of his honey stock in his house, keeping just about five to ten liters for sale in his shop. The honey kept at his shop is stored in glass whisky bottles. His retail sales are done in volume measures, at Rs. 150 per liter. He sells around hundred liters of honey per year in retail trade. He buys and stocks this volume during the honey season.

The honey bought for retail trade is stocked up in his house in plastic cans. This is because he wants to avoid the risk of getting caught by the police or other forest officials. The honey is sold in whole sale to shopkeepers from Ernakulum, at the price of Rs. 100 per Kilograms. These shopkeepers sell the honey in their shops in Ernakulum at a price of Rs. 150 per kilogram. The shopkeepers from Ernakulum should buy from him the honey needed for their sale during the season itself. He does not buy honey and stock it anticipating sale to other shopkeepers. Last year he had sold around 350 kilograms of honey to shopkeepers from Ernakulum. (Source: interviews with honey hunters and the shopkeeper). Shereena stores

This shop also operates in a very manner similar to the way in which M.A. Hakeem stores but for the volume of honey being dealt with. Last year he claims to have sold only ten liters in retail and around two hundred and fifty kilograms to shopkeepers from Ernakulum (Source: interviews with honey hunters and buyers in Perur). Cloth store

There is a cloth store in the same road in which the two above mentioned shops are located. He also deals with honey, but participates only in bulk selling to shopkeepers in Ernakulum. He buys honey from the honey hunters at his shop, stores it in his house and sells it to shopkeepers from Ernakulum who approaches him. He deals with honey only during the season and his pricing with the honey hunters and the buyers from Ernakulum are similar to M. A. Hakeem stores (Source: interviews with honey hunters and buyers in Perur). Sentil stores

This shop keeper used to deal only with small quantities of honey. Till last year, he was buying and selling around ten to fifteen liters per year. He says that he was not able to establish contacts with bulk buyers from outside. It would be interesting to note that all the bulk selling shop keepers from Pitherkadu are Muslims and so are the buying shopkeepers from Ernakulum. Because he ended up having some unsold stock year after year and was not able to hit high volumes, he decided to stop buying honey from this year onwards. He was buying honey at Rs 65 a kilogram and selling at Rs 150 a liter (Source: interviews with honey hunters and buyers in Perur). Puja shop

There is a puja shop in the same street. The owner of this shop deals with honey, because he believes that he has to offer all the items required for puja. He buys and sells around ten liters of honey every year. He buys and stocks honey in his shop itself and sells it. The terms of exchange offered by him are similar to the ones that are being offered by the shopkeepers. He buys honey at Rs 65 a kilogram and selling at Rs 150 a liter (Source: interviews with honey hunters and buyers in Perur).

The quantity of honey that has been procured by each of the shop keepers this year is unknown. The quantity of honey sold in retail and in bulk will be known only at the end of the year.

6.4.4. Sell to the trader at Alathur

The information presented under this section has been obtained through an interview with the honey trader, Kumar himself. The honey hunter has the option of selling his honey to a trader at Alathur, who in turn sells his honey to the Kallur society. He has been in the business for the past twenty years. The village of Alathur is about five kilometers from Perur and takes an hour and a half to reach there by foot. The path travels through the forest and can be travelled only by foot. The honey trader in this village, Kumar owns a tea shop in the village. He also sells grocery items in his shop. He buys honey from the honey hunters of Perur and Alathur and sells it to the Kallur society. He fixes his purchase price of honey based on Kallur societies purchase price of honey. He fixes his price ten rupees less than the purchase price of honey. The price of honey at the Kallur society has been fixed at seventy per kilograms for the last year and this year. He has been procuring honey at sixty per kilograms for the same period. He also has the habit of paying for one kilogram less for every twenty to thirty kilograms of honey that he buys. This he says is to make up for filtration and sedimentation loses that he might suffer.

The honey hunters from Perur take cash payments from him in exchange for the honey they bring and rarely buy any things from his shop. The honey hunters from Perur buy their requirements from shops at Pitherkadu. Rice, which is the staple food here, is sold at state owned ration shops at Pitherkadu for Rs. Two a kilograms (this is done by the Tamil Nadu state government and is applicable only to people from Perur and to people from Alathur).

The people from Perur bring their honey to the shop at Alathur, only if the quantity is less. Otherwise, they take their honey to Kallur society. If the honey is more than forty to fifty kilograms, then they take it to Kallur. Even when the quantity is less, people prefer to sell it at shops at Pitherkadu, than to sell it to the trader at Alathur, because of the availability of the good shops at Pitherkadu, which sell all the items he might require, at a better quality and less price than the shop at Alathur. In addition to the above, there are no liquor shops at Alathur, which means that even if the honey hunter sells his honey to the shop at Alathur, he has to go to Pitherkadu to drink (again passing through his village Perur).

He is not an expert when it comes to detecting the quality of honey and so buys honey only from people he is familiar with. In the past, he has been cheated by a honey hunting group from Perur by mixing jaggery syrup with water. From then on, he has avoided any transactions with the members of that group.

Earlier he never used to provide credit or advance to honey hunters. He started the practice only this year. He has given an advance of about a thousand rupees to honey hunters from Perur for this years' honey, to aid them to buy ropes and cans. He is yet to see any of them from that time onwards. He has gone back to his earlier stand and has stopped giving any advances to the honey hunters. He feels that he would somehow or the other be able to recover loans from people from Alathur, as living in the same village he is bound to meet them some time or the other. But the same is not the case with honey hunters from Perur.

The honey that he buys is sold to the Kallur society. The main road is three kilometers from Alathur (connected by a mud road, through which vehicles can pass through). If he can take his honey there, it would cost him around three hundred and fifty rupees to hire the jeep to take the honey load to the Kallur society (the quantity of honey transported does not impact the jeep rent). If he has to ask the jeep drier to pick up the honey from his house, it would cost him Five hundred rupees. He prefers the later, as he would have to spend more money to hire people to carry the honey to the main road. He waits till he has bought enough of honey (around five hundred kilograms) to be transported by hiring a jeep, before he employs one to carry his honey.

Last year, he had procured and sold around two tons of honey, of which around nine hundred kilograms have come from Perur and the rest from Alathur itself. He is fully aware of the honey being sold by honey hunters from Perur to the shopkeepers at Pitherkadu and that the shops at Pitherkadu offer Rs. five more per g than what he does. But still he is not in a position to increase the procurement price of honey; because he feels that he cannot operate at margins less than Rs. Ten per kilograms. He is also certain that the traders at Pitherkadu will have only limited order of honey and some will always keep flowing to him. He has also tried to establish contacts with the honey buyers from Ernakulum but was not able to do so because those traders from Pitherkadu are Muslims and so are the buyers from Ernakulum and comfortable to have trade contacts between themselves. He also suspects that they could be relatives (this argument was not supported by the shopkeepers from Pitherkadu). This year, most of the honey which would have normally come to him has been going to the Kallur society. So far he has got only fifty kilograms from Perur. But he is not ready to change his procurement price to attract more business from Perur. He buys wax at Rs eighty a kilogram and sells it to the Kallur society at ninety a kilogram. He claims that he gets only around forty to fifty kilograms of wax every year.

6.4.5. Sell honey to Kallur society

The Kallur scheduled tribe society is located in the town of Sultan Bathery. By road, it is around twenty five to thirty kilometers from Patavail (the place where the mud road from Alathur touches the main road). The honey hunters who wish to get here from Perur will have to come through Alathur. There is a road route leading to the Kallur society from Pitherkadu, but if they take that route, they will have to cross a check post on the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border. They consider this to be too risky and never take this route. They bring their honey through Alathur. After reaching Alathur, the honey hunter has two options, either to take a walk to the society or to go to Patavail and take a jeep from there. If the honey hunter decides to walk all the way to the Kallur society, he has to walk a total of fifteen kilometers through the forests (five kilometers from Perur to Alathur and ten kilometers from Alathur to the Kallur society), which takes them around four to four and a half hours to walk.

The other option would be to take the honey to Patavail and hire a jeep from there to the Kallur society. To reach Patavail, the honey hunters will have to walk a total distance of eight kilometers (five kilometers from Perur to Alathur and three kilometers from Alathur to Patavail), which would take them around two and a half hours by foot. From Patavail, the honey hunters hire a jeep to the Kallur society, which takes them around half an hour to reach there and it costs them three hundred and fifty to four hundred rupees. If the honey hunters travel the entire distance by foot, four people go with the honey, normally with fifty to hundred kilograms of honey and if they take the walk plus jeep route, they two of the honey hunters from the group take the honey with them. The route taken by the honey hunters to reach Kallur depends on the path they take to reach there. If the quantity to be sold is between fifty to hundred kilograms, they prefer to walk and if the quantity is more than a hundred kilograms, they take a jeep). On the way back to Perur, they take a bus to reach there.

The honey hunters selling their honey to the Kallur society take cash for their honey, received as a spot payment and normally do not buy any goods from there (goods being sold at the society itself). There is a toddy shop at Kallur. The honey hunters either go to the toddy shop at Kallur or go to Pitherkadu by bus and go to the liquor shop there (but they do definitely go to the liquor shop before returning home). They buy the required goods from the shops at Pitherkadu only and not from Kallur or Sultan Bathery (Source: interview with the Kallur ST society secretary, James).

6.5. Kallur Society

The Kallur ST (scheduled tribe) society has been functioning for the past half a century. It is a part of the Kerala SC ST federation, ever since the federation was founded in 1982. The apex body consists of ninety seven ST societies and five hundred plus SC societies. The Kallur sc society deals with honey, bees wax, amla, medicinal plants, tree mass, sekakai and turmeric. The honey collected here is sold in shops located at three places, namely Sultan Bathery, Muthanya and at the procurement centre at Kallur itself. Beeswax and other NTFPs mentioned above are auctioned and sold collectively by the SC ST federation. The federation does not interfere in the honey business (Source: interview with the Kallur ST society secretary, James).

* As of 20/06/2008

The above table shows honey that has been collected during a financial year. During the first three months of a year, no honey flows and so honey collected during a calendar year or a financial year will be the same (For example the honey collected during the calendar year 2007 and the honey collected during the financial year 2007-08 will be the same).

The Kallur ST society works on the principle of giving at least eighty percent of the revenue generated on the sale of any product to the person who has collected it. The society first fixes an initial procurement price for the product it buys in a conservative way, so that the society does not end up in a loss making position. At the year end, the total revenue is calculated and eighty percent of that to be given to the tribals is also calculated. The difference between the eighty per cent of revenue generated and the initial procurement price given is paid back to the people who have given the produce as festival bonus (this bonus is normally given during the Onam festival).

Kallur ST society does business with both its members as well as with other non-members. But only the members of the society are eligible for bonus and the bonus is not offered to the non members. The membership of the Kallur ST society is restricted only to scheduled tribes belonging to a particular region surrounding the Kallur area in Kerala. As people of Perur do not belong to this area, they do not have membership at the Kallur ST society and hence are not eligible for the bonus.

For honey procurement, the society first fixes the price at which it would sell the honey and from there, it fixes the procurement price (The method by which the selling prices of honey is fixed is not clear. It is not disclosed by the society). Last year (for 2007-08), the selling price of honey was decided as Rs. 90 per kilogram for retail sale (purchase of less than one hundred kilograms per order) and Rs. 85 per kilogram for wholesale sale (purchase of one hundred kilograms or more per order) by the society. Based on this, the procurement price of honey was fixed at Rs seventy per kilogram. They sell close to a ton of honey by whole sale to ayurvedic medicine makers and the rest through retail sale.

Kallur ST society buys wax at the price of Rs one hundred per kilogram for pure quality wax and Rs ninety per kilogram for wax with impurities. The wax bought from the honey hunters is purified and given to the SC ST federation, where it is auctioned. This auctioned wax is normally bought by the Ayurvedic medicine makers at a price of around Rs 130 to 140 per kilogram. The honey hunters do not get any bonus for wax. The society procures around two to three hundred kilograms of wax every year. Last year (2007-08), the quantity of wax procured was three hundred and forty kilograms. The secretary of the society feels that there is a lot more wax which can be collected, but is wasted by the honey hunters.

The Kallur ST society also has a grocery shop attached to it. In the shop, it sells most of the house hold stuff required. But here the secretary feels that very few people use the facility. They also do offer a savings facility for its members, which is used by still fewer members. (The exact details of the people using the above mentioned facilities were not disclosed)

The secretary Mr. James is in charge of all the operations at the society. He has been with the society for the past twenty seven years. He has three staff members to assist him in the operations of the society. (Source: interview with the Kallur ST society secretary, James).

The honey bought to the society is not always billed. The honey hunters, who are members of the society and are eligible for the bonus are interested in obtaining the bill for the honey that they bring (they have to produce the bills to claim the festival bonus). The honey hunters who are non members with the society are not really interested in obtaining the bill. None of the honey hunters who bring wax are interested in obtaining the bill, for they can see no use of it. The honey sold in retail is also rarely billed, unless it is purchased for some industrial use or cases where the bill has to be produced (Source: interview with the honey hunters and based on observation at the society). This leaves a lot of scope for mal practices to take place inside the society.

The secretary of the society claims that no honey from Perur comes to the Kallur society. But honey hunters from Kallur tell us something which is totally different. Till last year, only one group from Perur was selling his honey to the Kallur society. This group is considered to be the best group at Perur and they collect around a ton of honey every year. This was also confirmed by other honey hunters from Perur and the trader at Alathur. It was by learning from this honey hunting groups that other groups from Perur have now started selling their honey to the Kallur ST society. Till last year, the honey hunters from Perur (the above mentioned group excluded) were selling their honey to Pitherkadu, as long as they could manage to find a buyer and the rest was sold to the trader at Alathur. But this year, the scenario has changed. If the honey hunters get a lot of honey (any thing more than forty to fifty kilograms), they sell it to the Kallur society. If it is less, they sell it to the shops at Pitherkadu (Source: interview with the honey hunters).

6.6. Forest officials

The forest officials coming in contact with the honey hunters of Perur are the anti poaching watcher, watcher, the forest guard, the forester and the ranger. Of the above mentioned five people (belonging to different categories in the above mentioned order), the first three come for beet in the forests and get to go through Perur at least once a day. They take some honey from the honey hunters occasionally. The honey hunters are unable to remember how much they would actually be giving to them. They also have to give honey to the ranger's office once a year, each group giving around five to ten kilograms. A rough estimate of the honey flowing to

7. Kannur

The village Kannur is in Tamil Nadu. It is located 1 kilometer off the Sathyamanglam Kollegal road. The road leading to Kannur is a mud road, with fences to avoid the entry of wild animals. As Kannur is not located on the main road, it is not easy for outsiders to access the village. The government of Tamil Nadu comes up with a list of NTFP's that can be collected from the forest and sold by the tribal people. Honey does not figure in the list of NTFPs allowed for collection and sale. Other NTFPs like amla, sekaka, kadukai and seemarupullu can be collected and sold. The NTFPs collected by the tribal people has to be sold only to the VFC. The VFC sells the NTFPs that it buys from the tribal people.

But in reality, along with the allowed NTFPs, honey is also collected by the tribal people. The collected NTFPs have to be sold to the VFC. As far as honey is concerned, the honey hunters have to sell their honey to the VFC, which in turn sell it to the keystones Thumbitakadu people's center. Some honey goes directly to the keystones centre and a small part of it goes outside also (Source: interview with honey hunters).

All the forest officials are aware of the honey collection and sale in the area. This is allowed by the forest officials and people do it in the open without any fear. This is not considered as a banned activity by the people. The honey and other NTFPs that come from Kannur will have to get a pass at the check post. The pass at the check post can be issued only for NTFPs other than honey because it does not figure in the list of allowed NTFPs. A pass is issued only for private vehicles like jeeps or tempos carrying NTFPs. It is not applicable for small quantities of NTFPs carried by in a bus. In this case, the honey that is brought across the check post is not billed as honey; rather it is billed as some other NTFP. The pass is also issued in the same name at the check post (Source: interview with forest guard Ayappan).

7.1. VFC

The village forest councils (VFC) have been formed in all the tribal NTFP collecting villages. The VFCs have been formed to avoid the exploitation of the tribal people, the NTFP collectors by the middle men and other traders. All the NTFP collectors have to sell their collected produces only to the VFC. The VFC will take care of the marketing of the NTFPs. The NTFPs are either sold to a trader, with whom the VFC has regular contacts or is taken to a nearby market and is sold there. This kind of a system has been put in place to bring about bargaining power to the NTFP collectors, by bringing them together. The VFC has a leader from within the village itself and is elected by the members of the vllage.

7.2. Check Post

The following are information obtained from the interview with forest guard Ayappan, who was manning the Assanur check post. A vehicle leaving the village carrying NTFPs has to get a pass at the first check post that it crosses. The permit will cost the VFC Rs 100 per load (a tempo or a lorry load).The VFC that transports the NTFP bills it at the village. It is billed in the same name, if it is an allowed item and is billed in the name of some other item if it is an un-allowed item. The permit is issued at the check post in the same name in which the items are billed at the VFC.

A bribe of Rs five hundred also has to be paid to the person manning the check post. The bribe collected at the check post will be shared by the forest officials. The proportion in which the bribe will be shared by the forest officials is not known. This bribe has to be paid at the check post irrespective of weather the NTFP being transported figures in the list of allowed items or not. In addition to the bribe, the forest officials at the check post need to be given some NTFPs also (no payment is made for it). It is not possible to quantify the amount of NTFPs that would be given to the forest officials at the check post, for it follows no regular pattern. The NTFPs that the forest officials get at the check post is used for the person's domestic consumption and to give it to his friends and relatives. The people who man the check post are also expected to bring some of these NTFPs to other forest officials, who never get to man them, in exchange of some favors they may need in official issues. Around ten liters (13.7 kilograms rounded off as 15 kilograms) of honey would be given to the forest officials from Kannur (Source: interview with forest guard Ayappan).

7.3. Veeran

Veeran is the president of the village forest council (VFC) of Kannur, and the village panchayath. He commands a lot of respect in the village. People in the village are actually afraid of him. The decision he takes is final and binding on the villagers. People in the village are afraid of sanctions that he might impose upon them. He justifies his decisions to be in the interest of the every one in the village, taken with a long term perspective. When people do not adhere to his words, he calls them and scolds them severely. The decisions that are taken by him become the law of the village. He threatens them that if they do not adhere to the rules of the village, the people of the village will not come to help him during times of his difficulty. In certain cases, he even threatens to throw them out of the village. Veeran also helps fellow villagers by loaning them money, free of interest for short durations (Source: interview with honey hunters).

The code for NTFP collection is fixed in the village. The code is that all the NTFP that is collected should be given to the VFC, which shall take care of the marketing of it. The honey that is being collected by the honey hunters is bought to Veeran's house and stored in different containers for different honey hunting groups. They wait till sufficient honey is collected to hire a tempo or a lorry and the collected honey is then taken to keystones Thumbitakadu people's centre and sold there.

During this period, when the honey is stocked up in Veeran's house and the honey hunter is in need of some money, Veeran helps them by providing them with some money. This money that is given to the honey hunters is less than what their honey would fetch and is adjusted in the payment made to them when the honey is sold to the keystones center. They are not charged an interest on it (Source: interview with honey hunters).

7.4. Keystones Thumbitakadu People's Centre

It is located at a distance of twelve kilometers from Kannur. It receives honey from the adjoining villages, processes it and sells it. It accepts honey that comes from all the honey hunters weather it comes directly to them from the honey hunters or through the VFC. It is officially accepted to have come from the VFC, if it is brought by the VFC president or by one of his representatives. The honey that comes from the VFC only gets billed at the VFC and needs to take a permit from the check post. The VFC president has to be present at the check post to get the permit issued. If it comes directly from the honey hunter, it does not get the permit and hence cannot be brought in fully hired private carriers like jeeps, tempos or lorries. It has to be brought in a bus.

The keystone pays Rs 60 per kilogram of honey, for the honey brought by the honey hunter. It pays Rs 70 per kilogram of honey that comes through the VFC. This money is given to the VFC, which in turn pays Rs 60 per kilogram of honey that has been given to him by the honey hunters. The price difference of Rs 10 is kept with the VFC. With this, he has to pay the bribe to the forest officials at the check post. The VFC keeps the remaining of the price difference with itself. This money is used for village welfare activities (Source: interview with keystone center coordinator).

When the honey is bought to the keystones center by the president, they pay for the vehicle fare also. But if it is brought by the honey hunter, he is not paid for the vehicle fare. He has also has to spend his time to come and give the honey at the center. The above mentioned reasons serve as incentives for the honey hunter to give it to the VFC than to bring it directly and for the VFC to collect it and give it to the keystones center. In cases when there is little honey in the village (during off seasons), the VFC president asks the honey hunter to sell it by himself to the keystones center. This honey hunter sells it by himself to the keystones center at the price of sixty per kilogram (Source: interview with honey hunters).

The honey that is received by keystone through the VFC is billed as some other allowed NTFP at the VFC and permitted at the check post. As a payment for this, keystone pays the billed amount for the NTFP to the VFC. The VFC uses this money for developmental activities that take place in the village (Source: interview with keystone center coordinator).

Last year keystone had purchased a total of two thousand seven hundred kilograms of honey from Kannur. Of the total of two thousand seven hundred kilograms, four hundred kilograms were bought directly to the keystones center by the honey hunter and the rest were bought through the VFC (Source: keystone center purchase records).

Keystone buys Apis dorsata as well as Apis floria honey. But only dorsata honey is being sold from Kannur. The wax being collected at Kannur also follows the same chain. It is being collected and stored at Veeran's house, which is then sold to keystones center along with the honey. Keystone pays Rs 100 per kilogram of wax irrespective of who brings it. VFC pays the villagers at the same price (Source: interview with honey hunters).

7.5. Honey Hunters

7.5.1. Nathan

Nathan was a NTFP contractor twenty years back. Now he depends on honey hunting, NTFP collection, wage labour and agriculture for his livelihood. He collects honey during the months of May and June. He grows beans on his two acre land during July September. Even though honey might be available during September October (also known as Deepawali season), he does not go for honey collection during these months. He does not go for rock honey collection. He collects honey only from trees (Apis florea or Apis cerana honey). He goes with a group (different groups) or goes alone for honey hunting. He estimates that in 2007 he would have sold around a hundred kilograms of honey to keystone through VFC and around seven kilograms (five liters) to direct consumers who come to the village asking for honey. This year he has sold around seventy kilograms to keystone through VFC and is yet to sell any thing to direct consumers who come to the village asking for honey. He does not even try to explore other options of sale, because he feels that it would not be possible to go against Veeran's word. He does not collect wax, because he feels that he has to do a lot of work cleaning it ant the returns are not worth it. He is not sure about the honey he has collected in previous years. But he feels that presence of honey in the forests have come down. He also (earlier the same views were expressed by honey hunters from Kannur) attributes this to erratic rain falls. Long back (he estimates the time period to be so twenty to thirty years back) there was no proper means of selling honey and were collecting it only for self consumption. Some time back (around fifteen years), honey was bought by the forest guards, but they paid very less for the honey. The price was decided at will and they paid around Rs twenty to thirty per liter(Source: interview with honey hunter Nathan).

7.5.2. Raja

Raja is around forty years of age. He depends on honey hunting, NTFP collection, wage labour and agriculture for his livelihood. He owns an acre of land, on which he cultivates ragi or beans. He goes for honey hunting during the May June as well as the September October season. He goes for rock honey hunting. He goes in groups varying in size from four to eight members. They sell their honey to keystone through the VFC. Last year (2007) his group has collected around five hundred kilograms of honey. This year (2008) they have collected around two hundred kilograms so far. He does not sell honey outside the VFC. He attributes this to the fear of Veeran. He strongly feels that he has more remunerative options of selling his honey but for Veeran. He collects wax occasionally. Last year he has collected and sold around ten kilograms of wax to keystone through the VFC (Source: interview with honey hunter Raja).


Honey buyers from Kannur other than VFC are the people who travel on the road leading to Kollegal. Kannur is famous in the region for honey collection. As already mentioned, it is not easy for people to access the village. Some travelers who have already been to Kannur find it easy to access the village. Travelers who are lucky to find people from Kannur standing at the road side can also come to the village with their help. They normally buy a liter or two from the honey hunter they meet inside the village. Honey is available only during the season. Honey hunters do not have the habit of stocking it up. Even though Veeran knows about the sale of honey in this fashion, he turns a blind eye towards it. It is estimated by the honey hunters that around a fifty liters of honey might be sold this way (a figure quoted by the honey hunters interviewed). Honey is sold in brandy bottles at the price of Rs 100 a liter (Rs 73 per kilogram) (Source: interview with honey hunters).


Kobo is a beautiful Toda village located in the upper slopes of Nilgiris. The nearest bus stop is Ebanadu which is about 20-25 kilometers from Kotagiri. The village is about 3-4 kilometers from the bus stop. This village is located in the interior of Shola forest and has about ten Toda families of which 3-4 families engaged in honey hunting. The honey collected is for personal consumption and minor sales. When collection is done for home consumption the hunters go in a group and collect honey. When collection is meant for sales they go individually or in pairs and collect honey. The honey collected here is only from Apis cerana. We selected this site mainly because the honey collected is low in volume and the market type is largely informal and some part of it is exclusively kept aside for home consumption.

8.1. Interview with Honey Hunters

The site has only 3-4 honey hunting households and all these were covered for the interview.

8.1.1. Hanesh (KB 6)

He is a Toda of about 26 years of age. He has been a honey hunter from the age of eighteen. He collects cerana honey only for which he goes alone or in a group of 2-3. Cerana honey is mainly collected from the cavities of the Shola trees. The honey collecting season extends from April to July. In a season, he spends at least a month collecting honey. Some days he may get honey up to 5 litres or in some cases he may not collect anything at all. On an average he gets honey close to 2-3 litres in a day. Of the total volume of honey collected 3-4 litres is kept apart for home consumption. In a year he collects about 50 litres of honey.

In the last five years, two years had good honey collection and two years had average honey collection. The year of 2008 has been a bad year as the season is now over and the honey collection is less. In this year there was little number of nests. In a good year he may get honey up to 60-70 litres. In a bad year the collection will be around 20-30 litres.

After the honey is collected, it is melted and filtered through a cloth and squeezed to extract the honey. The honey thus collected is sold as retail in quantities of or litres to the households nearby. Around the bus stop of Ebanadu there are about 500 houses to which the Toda people supply honey. On an average Hanesh supplies honey in these retail quantities to 30-40 households. Some quantity of honey (around 10 litres) is also supplied to Toda people in the Ooty Botanical Garden where it is sold to the visitors at garden. When honey sale is to households he charges Rs 50 for a 250 ml bottle of honey. At the garden he is paid Rs 200 for a bottle of honey weighing 750 ml (Rs.205 per kilo).

The honey hunters themselves take the honey to the Botanical Garden in bus. The transportation cost for 10 litres of honey will be about Rs 50. During the season period at Ooty i.e. from March to May he may get Rs 250 for a bottle of honey (Rs 256 per kilo of honey)

Apart from honey hunting which is a seasonal activity he also practices agriculture. He raises crops like potato, carrot, beans, cabbage in their one acre of land. His family comprises of four children and his wife.

8.1.2. Dasuth (KB 5)

He is a Toda of about 34 years of age. He has been practicing honey hunting for the past 15 years. He collects cerana honey for which he ventures in to the forest either alone or with his brother. The honey hunting season starts from April and continues till June. For a period of one month he will be spending in the forest searching for honey colonies. On a day he collects anything between 1 and 4 litres of honey. Last year Dasuth Kuttan was able to collect 50 litres of honey, out of which 1-2 litres of honey is kept aside for home consumption and the rest for sales.

He thinks that this year was bad as the honey collection was low; he was able to get only 30 litres of honey so far. He thinks that if the honey collection is good he will be able to obtain something around 70- 80 litres of honey every year.

Dasuth now supplies honey to Keystone. Last year he supplied 5 kilograms of honey to Keystone for a price of Rs 85/kg. Like Dasuth he also supplies honey to the local households near Ebanadu. This is done in retail quantities of and litres. Earlier he used to supply honey in tourist centres in retail quantities. He was able to sell a volume of 10 litres through this channel. He used to sell honey to the Toda Embroidery Centre and Toda hut in the Ooty Botanical Garden some five years before. They used to get a price of Rs 250 per bottle (750 ml) i.e. Rs 256 per kilo of honey when sold here during the tourist season of Ooty and other time a price of Rs 200 per bottle. Apart from honey, tea, candle, eucalyptus oil etc are sold through these centers. Dasuth also practices agriculture. He cultivates beans, carrot, potato etc in his field. He also owns 3 buffaloes from which he obtains milk for meeting his family needs and minor sales.

8.1.3. Luthas (KB 8)

He has been engaging in this vocation for the past 12 years. This Toda of 26 years collects cerana honey from trees. He goes alone or along with his brother for honey hunting. He collects honey in the period of April to June. In a season he will have to spend a period of one month in the forest collecting honey. From a small colony he will be able to obtain a volume of 1-2 litres and from a big colony a volume of 3-4 litres. In a good season he will be able to obtain a volume of 60-70 litres and in a bad year a volume of 10-20 litres. He sells a part of the honey i.e. about 10 litres to Pollidhi Kuttan who gives him a price of Rs 200 per kilo of honey. He also used to supply honey to Toda embroidery centre and Toda hut in the Ooty Botanical Garden. During the tourist season time they receive a higher price of Rs 250/ 750 ml and during the lean period they receive a price of Rs 150 to 200 per 750 ml. Five or six years before he supplied a volume of 5-6 litres to the Toda hut inside the Botanical Garden, which fetched a price of Rs 150 per litre. Last year he supplied three litres of honey to Keystone. This is because the Toda Embroidery Centre has stopped the honey business and Toda hut inside the Botanical Garden is not procuring directly from the Todas but through Keystone.

Dasuth also supplies honey to the local households in Ebanadu in retail quantities like Hanesh and Luthas in the same price range. Apart from honey hunting, the Todas also engage in agriculture and animal husbandry to support them during the off season.

8.2. Private Traders

8.2.1. Toda Ten Malar Shop

This is a shop run exclusively by the Toda women inside the Ooty Botanical Garden. These women have formed a Self Help Group comprising of 16 members. There is a Toda settlement which consists of twenty families living inside the Garden. So the Ten Malar Shop is an initiative of the Toda families settled in this place. Though Todas live in this area they do not engage in honey hunting. Many of them work in the garden itself in various posts ranging from gardener to supervisor according to their qualifications.

This shop is at the entrance of Garden and is in the shape of a traditional Toda hut. The self help group has taken a loan two years before of an amount of Rs 2 lakh from Indian Bank for the initial investment and expansion of the original hut. Now they have to pay an amount of Rs 4000 per month in an effort to repay the loan. The business centre had been functional for a period of ten years now. The new building was constructed recently in 2008 and Keystone helped them in meeting the expense for construction.

The shop obtains honey only from Todas of six villages. The villages are Kobo, Korakuntha, Tarnad Mund, Kabbadi Mund, Tholkodu Mund and Mulli Mund.

During the season time the shop collects about 100 to 150 litres of honey. In a year they collect about 300 litres of honey from all of the six villages. For the past five years the shop gets its honey from Keystone. In 2006, the shop obtained honey directly from the Todas but in this manner honey obtained was not clean and they had to give it Keystone to filter and clean it. The filtered and clean honey was later packed in small bottles of adequate sizes of 1 litre, litres, and litres. One litre of honey was bought for a price of Rs 200 by the Ten Malar Shop and sold at the rate of Rs 250 per litre. During tourist season the same bottle of honey is sold at the rate of Rs 300 per litre at the time when the shop was directly procuring honey from the Todas. Now they get the clean and packed honey of Keystone which is named 'Last Forest' brand. They procure honey at a lower cost of Rs 77 from Keystone and sell it at the marked price of Rs 95 for a bottle of half kilogram. On an average in a month they buy some five boxes of honey. In the season time they will be able to make sales of 1-2 boxes/ day and in the off-season period a sales of 3-4 bottles of honey per day.

A box of honey will contain some 12 bottles. The bottles come in average sizes of kg and kg. More sales take place of the kg ones. A kg bottle is bought at the rate of Rs 55 from Keystone and sold at the rate of Rs 60.

8.2.2. Pollidhi Kuttan

He is a Toda living in the Toda settlement of Ooty which is very close to the town. He buys the honey collected by other tribals and sells them at a higher rate. Pollidhi Kuttan is a tourist guide by profession and he is engaged in this honey trading for the past 10 years. He claims himself to be an informal trader who sells small quantities to friends and tourists. He collects honey from Todas as well as other tribals like Kurumbas, Irulas. Todas give him cerana honey, Kurumbas sell dorsata honey and Irulas sell florea honey.

He says that of all the honey, cerana honey is the tastiest and hence highly priced. Florea honey is clear and not that sweet. It is supposed to be a good source of energy for small children. Florea honey which is also known as Kolthen is less priced. The honey is mainly procured in the month of May. The honey collected from the forest is brought by the tribals to the house of Pollidhi Kuttan. He gets cerana as well as dorsata honey in this manner. For collecting florea honey he has to visit Masanagudi in Gudallur.

In a year he collects around 20 kilos of each honey. Last year he collected 10-20 litres of cerana honey, 10-15 kilos of dorsata honey, and 10-15 kilos of florea honey. He sells all the different types of honey separately. These are priced differently, this year one kilo of dorsata honey fetched a price of Rs 130, florea honey received a price of Rs 100 and cerana honey fetched a premium price of Rs 250. The price at which sales of honey take place depends on the customer. When honey is sold to friends and relatives it is priced 20-30 Rs higher than the price at which is bought.

Pollidhi Kuttan also sells honey to the foreigners who come to Ooty. In such cases the honey is sold at double the price at which it is bought. For e.g. The cerana honey is sold at the rate of Rs 500 per kilo, dorsata honey at the rate of Rs 250 and florea honey at the rate of Rs 200 per kilo. In a year he sells honey to at least 50-100 foreigners. He remembers that four years before, honey collection was high. He collected 150 kilos of cerana honey, 60 kilos of florea honey at that time. He started collecting honey from Kurumbas (dorsata honey) only from the last year.

Note: The numbers inside the oval represents the price of honey in Rupees per kilogram

Source: Records of Ten Malar Shop, interviews with honey hunters and traders (based on memory).

Source: Records of Ten Malar Shop, interviews with traders and honey hunters

Note: The numbers inside the oval represents the price of honey in Rupees per kilogram.

Source: Keystone records, interviews with honey hunters and traders


This site is situated to the Coonoor side of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. Honey collected in this area is predominantly from Apis dorsata. We selected this site because the volume of honey collected in this area is very less and almost the entire quantity reaches Keystone. The village is also near to a very famous tourist spot at Coonoor i.e. Dolphin's Nose. The village of Comop is primarily a kurumba village with 3 to 4 honey hunting households. The village is located at the outskirts of the Adderly Tea Estate and some of the residents in the village go there in search of occasional employment. They do not enjoy working in the tea estate because they feel that it restricts their freedom. At the time of need of money they go as wage laborers and at other times they collect NTFP products from the forests and sell them to earn money. The honey hunters of the area give the entire quantity of honey to keystone foundation. The presence of a bulk buyer of honey in the site has actually increased honey collection from the village. The proximity of the village to the Adderly tea estate also gives them an opportunity of selling their honey to the nearby households. Before the entry of keystone in to the picture the honey hunters used to sell honey to tourists visiting Dolphin's nose.

9.1. Interview with Honey Hunters

9.1.1. Najan

He is a honey hunter of about 50 years of age. He started collecting honey at the age of twenty. The honey collected is primarily from the caves and in some cases from the trees. Honey is collected by groups of honey hunters and his group consists of 4-5 members. At least two people in this group remain the same. In a year he collects about 100-150 kilograms of honey. Out of the honey collected 1-2 kg is kept aside for self consumption.

Najan remembers that some twenty years before there was a honey collector's society which used to buy honey from them. They also used to supply the honey hunters with blankets, food, ropes and other materials required for honey hunting. After the closure of the society Najan started giving honey to estate houses in small volumes of 1-2 kilograms each. He also used to sell bulk volumes of honey ranging from 50-100 kgs in the areas adjoining Garanji bus stop.

Nowadays the entire amount of honey collected is sold to Keystone. When the honey collected reaches a volume of 30-40 kg it is taken to the 'Green Shop' at Bedfort, Coonoor. Two people from the honey hunting group take the responsibility of supplying the honey to the green shop. One can of honey is transported by bus at the cost of Rs 4 per litre. When asked about the price at which Keystone buys honey from them, he replied that it was Rs 70 per kilo (whereas the real price was Rs 75 per kilo). It seemed that the not all people in the honey hunting group except those who went for sale had enough idea about the rate at which their honey was sold.

Last year Najan collected a volume of 100 kgs of honey of which seven kilograms were cerana honey and this was sold to the Adderly tea estate houses at the rate of Rs 100/kg.

He thinks that in the past ten years there were almost equal numbers of good year and bad year. He thinks that in a good year he will be able to obtain a volume of 200-250 kilos and in an average year he will be able to get volume of 100-150 kilos.

Other than honey hunting he also practices agriculture and cultivates bean and other vegetables. The honey hunting provides him an income of Rs 1000 per month for a period of three months.

Apart from the honey hunters in this village, people also come from outside i.e. nearby areas of Mallikorai and Barliyar for honey hunting. This has raised some concern among the original residents and they are planning to stop this practice with the help of forest department.

9.1.2. Ragan

He is also a honey hunter of Comop and aged forty years. He has been a honey hunter from the age of twenty. He collects honey from caves and trees and in the period between April to June. In his honey hunting group there are again four to five members. The honey collected by him is only for sales and not for personal consumption. A volume of 250 ml or something is kept aside for medicinal purposes and the rest is used for sales. In Comop, there will be around 30 colonies but this year there was only 7 colonies. On an average they will be able to obtain a volume of 15 kilos from a colony. But this year they were able to collect a volume of only 20 kilos from all of the four colonies. This year the honey collection was very poor as the number of colonies was less this time as well as the amount of honey in each colony also being less mainly because of the rains. During heavy rains the amount of flowers in the forests comes down and the honey content in each flower also gets washed away. In such cases venturing out for honey hunting is a loss for them as they have to spend at least 3-4 days in the jungle and that accounts for a wage loss for that many days. From a big sized colony they will be able to obtain some 200 grams of wax. Last year he collected and supplied around 100 kilos of honey to keystone at the rate of Rs 75 per kilo. He also supplied 5 kilos of cerana honey to keystone at the rate of Rs 85 per kilo. On an average when he collects 100 kgs of honey of which 30 kg will be collected from the tree cavities and the rest from caves.

9.1.3. Ligan

He is a honey hunter from Comop and aged thirty years. He has been collecting honey for the past ten years. He collects honey from rocks as well as trees. When collecting honey from trees he goes on his own or else he ventures in to the forest in his group. His group also comprises of 4-5 people. In many cases people from adjoining villages also join their group. Last year they were able to collect a volume of seventy litres of honey. They keep aside 2-3 litres for home consumption and sell the rest. He also sells small quantity of honey in volumes of and litres to friends and estate houses. The entire quantity collected last year was sold to keystone at the rate of Rs 75 per kilo.

For the last two years people from Bombalacombai have come to Comop for collecting honey. He has been supplying honey to keystone for the past four years. Before that there was no bulk buyer of honey from these areas. So they used to collect honey only for their home consumption and minor sales to the houses near the Adderly Tea estate. He sells quarter litre bottle of honey at the rate of Rs 50. Last year he also harvested a colony of cerana honey which yielded him 5 bottles of honey.

He said that apart from keystone there is no bulk buyer for honey. They have no contact with outside private traders. The only trader that they know is Rallak Niam who collects honey from other areas of Coonoor but not from Comop maybe because of the difficulty in procuring from here. He used to collect from these areas earlier but not now.

9.2.1. Rallak Niam

He is the most prominent trader of honey in the Coonoor region. Before the entry of keystone in to the area of honey marketing Niam used to procure honey from almost all the villages of Coonoor. After the entry of Keystone Niam started acting as an agent of honey collection. He collects honey from honey hunters at low price and supplies it to keystone at the rate of Rs 75 per kilo. The honey hunters claimed that he buys honey from kurumbas at the rate of Rs 30 to 40 per kilo and sells it at the rate of Rs 75 per kilo.

But nowadays, the awareness about keystone is on the rise among the honey hunters and they started supplying honey to keystone directly without involving Niam in the chain.

Understanding this situation Niam has now implemented another strategy. He with the help of forest officials locates honey colonies in the forests which imply that perhaps he is sharing unlawful relations with them established through bribes. He organizes honey hunters in to various groups and provides them with financial assistance. He makes a group of five people and gives those bidis, food and expenses for honey hunting. They venture in to the forests and the honey is collected. On sales if the honey fetches a price of Rs 8000, and the expenses met by Niam on honey hunters during this period is Rs 2000. The remaining amount of Rs 6000 after deducting the expenses from the sales is equally divided among the honey hunters and one share of it goes to Niam without him doing any work. This method of honey collection is followed by him in the areas of Barliar and Vellaicombai.

The honey hunters claimed that he also gives small amount of money in debt to them. He does not charge interest on it but he buys various NTFP products from them at a lower price. The various products bought from them are Coffee, Silk Cotton, Pepper, Honey, Soap Nut etc. (based on interview with honey hunters).

The honey buyers are classified as institutional and non institutional buyers. The institutional buyers include VSS, the SC ST cooperative society in Kerala and keystone foundation (including keystones production centers). The institutional buyers also comprise the formal trade channel. The non-institutional buyers comprise of private traders and sale done by the honey hunters to the consumers directly. They comprise of the informal trade channel. The following table shows the quantity of sale of honey by the honey hunters to the different honey buyers during the year 2007.


  • In Kannur, all the honey that is sold to the VSS is in turn sold to keystone.
  • In Perur, the honey that flows to Kallur ST society through the trader at Alathur is considered as honey flowing to the traders. (The reason behind this is that the trader is free to sell his honey to any one. He is selling it to the society because currently it offers him the best possible terms of exchange.)
  • Similarly in Athoor the honey that flows to Keystone through the trader is considered as honey flowing to the traders.
  • The honey flowing to the institutional buyers have been billed and exact figures are quoted. But for the honey flowing to the non institutional buyers, the figures as approximated by the honey hunter and the trader have been considered.

10. Factors Impacting Sale of Honey

The following discussion is on the factors that have an impact on the sale of honey by the honey hunters. The following are the factors which could have an impact on the sale of honey

  • Price.
  • Credit.
  • State regulation.
  • Volume of honey.
  • Presence of an institutional buyer.
  • Presence of a powerful leader.
  • Access to direct consumers.

11. Findings and conclusion

In all the six sites considered, the highest price available to the honey hunter per unit of honey is when the honey is directly sold by him to the consumer. But in all the six sites studied, the honey hunters face limited demand from the direct consumers. In this sale, the honey hunters face the problem of being unable to realize money immediately and also have to spend time looking buyers. In Athoor, located on the Sathyamangalam Mysore highway a huge volume of honey is being bought by the travelers. But most of it is routed through the traders and is not directly sold to them by the honey hunters. In Comop and Kobo, a relatively large proportion (twenty four and thirty percent respectively) of the honey is being sold directly by the honey hunters to the consumers. This is because honey flowing in these areas is low and the high proportion is because of the small denominator.

Traders with unlimited buying powers (traders who can buy up any quantity of honey brought to them by the honey hunters) are present only in two sites, namely Perur and Athoor. In other two sites where the traders operate, the traders face a limited market and buy honey just enough to cater to the demand. In the earlier case, the traders procure honey at a price that is lower than the price offered by the institutional buyer and in the later case the traders procure honey at a price that is higher than that of the institutional buyers. Traders do not operate in Kannur because of the presence of a strong village level leader. The absence of traders in Comop is because of the strong presence of Keystone. The institutional buyers decide the procurement price for a particular year at the beginning of the year and do not revise it till year end. The traders fix their price after the institutional buyers have fixed theirs and have the option of revising it.

Traders in Athoor and Nala provide credit to the honey hunters. The credit provided here is in the form of advance payment (free of interest) for the honey to be sold to them. In Nala, the honey being sold to traders is limited in quantity and is procured only from a few honey hunters, considered reliable by the trader. The traders also pay a price higher than society. In Athoor, the trader gives advance payments to honey hunters for honey and other NTFPs that would be sold to him during the year. The trader pays less than the society for the honey he buys. He buys honey from any honey hunter in the village but extends credit only selectively. In both the sites, provision of credit serves as an incentive for the honey hunter to trade with the trader.

Perur and Athoor legally do not have access to an institutional buyer. In Athoor, the absence is because honey hunting is banned in the area and is not allowed by the forest officials. But people in Athoor manage to sell honey to keystone located on the other side of the border. Price paid by keystone is higher than the price paid by the traders, but the honey hunter has to risk crossing the check post. In Perur, no institutional buyers are operating. But people of Perur manage to sell their honey to the Kallur ST society in Kerala. Here, the price paid by the society is ore than the price paid by the traders but the honey hunter has to make the tedious trip to the society. This could be the possible reason for Athoor and Perur to have the least proportion of honey flowing to institutional buyers. It comprises of only thirty seven and thirty eight percent respectively, while in other sites more than two thirds of the honey flows to institutional buyers. In Nala, a large proportion (ninety five percent) of the honey flows directly to the institutional buyers. This is mainly because of the absence of other options available to the honey hunters.

In Kannur, a large proportion of the honey goes to keystone directly or through the VSS. This is primarily due to the presence of a strong local leader Geddian, who commands fear and respect of the villagers. Under his leadership, the honey hunters sell their honey only to keystone and occasionally to travelers who come to village in need of honey. They do not sell it to any traders. Of the six sites studied, Kannur is the only site which has the presence of a strong leader, involved in the honey trade. For ever kilogram of honey sold through the VSS to keystone, VSS gets ten rupees (A part of it has to be paid as bribe to the forest officials). This acts as an incentive for the VSS to get involved in the trade.

No pattern could be tracked between the trade pattern of honey and the volume of honey flowing in a village. The regulations imposed by the government do not seem to impact the volume of honey being collected, but has an impact on the flow. These regulations decide on the access of the honey hunter to the institutional buyer, which has an impact on the proportion of honey flowing to institutional and non-institutional buyers.

In the sites studied, wax is considered by the honey hunters only as a by product. They do not show much interest in collecting it because of the tedious processing they have to do before selling it and is also not considered to be remunerative. In a lot of instances, the honey hunters just throw away the wax in the forests. Wax is just sold off same buyer, who buys the honey. Wax does not play a role in deciding the trading partner of the honey hunter.

12. Scope for further study

Quantity of honey collected by the honey hunters during every trip and its impact on the sale could be traced. But for this, details about the amount of honey collected during each visit to the forest must be known. Honey hunters do not maintain records for the same. A test group could be encouraged to maintain records about the same to carry out a study on these lines.

If the potential for honey collection in each of the sites is studied, it can be used to find out if the above considered factors have an impact on what proportion of the potential is being exploited.


Snehlatha Nath and Kunal Sharma (2006), Honey Trails in the Blue Mountains. Kotagiri: Keystone Foundation.

www.keralaplanningboard.org/html/forest_manage, accessed on 10/8/08.

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