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Explained: How Indian Royal Jelly came up to mark, beat top-quality products from Thailand, Taiwan

For the first time, Indian Royal Jelly has been found to surpass top-quality sellers. What is it, and what is known of its quality in India? Who are the global market rulers and consumers of royal jelly?

Written by Anjali Marar | Pune |
Updated: September 1, 2021 8:17:59 am
Royal jelly (Photo Courtesy: CBRTI, Pune)

For the first time, Indian Royal Jelly has been found to surpass top-quality sellers, including those produced in Thailand and Taiwan. Known for being a good antioxidant, and helping women with fertility issues, among other health benefits, the Indian Royal Jelly meets the ISO-prescribed standards imposed by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in 2019, according to Pune-based researchers.

What is Royal Jelly?

It is a pearly white or pale yellow-coloured cohesive mixture of honey and secretions from the hypopharyngeal and mandibular glands of worker honeybees. It contains moisture or water (60-70 per cent), lipids (1-10 per cent), minerals (0.8-3 per cent), proteins (9-18 per cent), sugar (7 per cent) and other elements. Being highly nutritious, this substance is used as food to young larvae and adult queen honeybees.

Commercially, royal jelly is produced artificially by stimulating bee colonies to produce queen bee, grown outside its natural habitat. The larvae in the queen cells are fed with nutritious royal jelly. The perfect time to harvest royal jelly is when the maximum amount gets accumulated upon the larva turning 5 days old.

Extraction of royal jelly requires specially trained manpower with expertise in extraction and excellent larvae grafting skills.

Royal jelly needs to be stored in sub-zero temperatures immediately after production, during packaging and also at the consumer’s end. Recommended temperature for fresh royal jelly is below –20 degrees Celsius. Freezee drier, a special machine, is needed to remove moisture from the fresh produce. At present, there are three such machines in India, which are imported from Germany.

In a season of five to six months, a well-maintained hive can produce an estimated 900gms of royal jelly.

What is known of Indian Royal Jelly’s quality and standards?

India did not have standards set for its royal jelly before FSSAI imposed ISO standards in 2019. But there was no data available on the quality of royal jelly produced in India.

Standards are laid down based on the concentration of moisture, sugars, protein and, most importantly, Hydroxy acids with 10 carbon atoms (10 HDA), which is a fatty acid found in the royal jelly. Presently, country-specific standards of royal jelly standards are available only in Switzerland, Bulgaria, Brazil and Uruguay whereas other countries are in the process of devising the same with the help of International Honey Commission.

A couple of years ago, a group of Pune-based researchers from Central Bee Research and Training Institute (CBRTI), Poona College of Pharmacy and CSIR – National Chemical Laboratory took up the task to establish our own standards for the Indian Royal Jelly. The researchers also compared their methods and parameters with samples imported from Thailand along with ISO.

The group collected royal jelly samples from six geographical regions – Vijayarai (Andhra Pradesh), Haldwani (Uttarakhand), Jhajjar (Haryana), Chandalosa (Jharkhand) along with Manchar and CBRTI (Maharashtra).

In its recently concluded study, the findings confirm that the royal jelly produced by honeybees that gather pollen from flowers of mustard, coconut and multi-flora variants are of top international quality whereas those from maize were not as good. Mustard pollen contains high protein content. The quality varied from the plant and their respective pollen.

“In fact, Indian royal jelly is better in quality than royal jelly produced in Thailand and China and is almost the same quality as the Italian royal jelly, which is considered the best in the world,” said Dr Lakshmi Rao, assistant director at CBRTI and lead researcher in this project.

Some of the parameters compared against ISO and the findings are listed below:

How Indian Royal Jelly fares against ISO standards

With the standards now analysed, Rao confirmed that the Indian Royal Jelly now meets the ISO requirements.

Who are the global market rulers and consumers of royal jelly?

In the 1940s, the production techniques of royal jelly were first developed by Japan. But due to the laborious work involved in its production, the Japanese trained beekeepers and sent them to Taiwan.

At 600 metric tonnes/year, China tops the production charts and is followed by Taiwan (350 metric tonnes/year). Thailand and Italy are among the other top producers in the world.

With over 400 metric tonnes/ year, Japan is the world’s largest importer followed by Germany, America and some other European nations.

For its high quality, Thailand-made fresh royal jelly sells at Rs 12,000 per kg whereas the powdered variant costs Rs 30,000 per kg in India.

On the other hand, royal jelly from China, which experts say is of low quality as it contains even larvae and not pure royal jelly mixture, sells at Rs 8,000 (fresh) and 15,000 (powder) per kg, each.

Delhi and north Indian markets mostly supply Chinese-manufactured royal jelly whereas markets in Mumbai have imports available from Thailand.

What are the benefits of consuming royal jelly and why is the consumption growing worldwide?

Royal jelly is no medicine but a nutritious substance. An average healthy person needs to consume only about 500 mg (fresh) and 200mg (powder) in a day to get maximum health benefits.

Royal jelly is known for its antioxidant properties. Besides, it cures damaged cells in the body and rejuvenates them. Hence, some cancer patients are advised consumption of royal jelly up to 10mgs.

Its consumption is suggested to women for improving their fertility. It is also found effective for women suffering from premenstrual and post-menopausal problems.

Royal jelly is believed to cut down body ageing and makes people look much younger than their actual age, and is thus popular among celebrities. The Japanese — who are among the oldest living humans crossing the age of 100 — could have some links for their longevity with high consumption of royal jelly, experts said.

Royal jelly with higher 10 HDA is most nutritious.

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Indian Royal Jelly meets ISO, what does it imply?

India can now undertake extensive training of honeybee keepers exclusively for royal jelly collection and artificial production. Estimates say that there are about 2 lakh beekeepers in India of which not even five per cent are trained in royal jelly collection.

With the Indian Royal Jelly now levelling with the top Italian make, and beating both Thailand and Taiwan, there is a huge potential for Indian beekeepers to enter the manufacturing of royal jelly and make a place as an exporter in the ever-growing international demand.

Currently, Indian Royal Jelly is not sold commercially. Those available under Indian brand names are, in reality, imported and re-packaged in India.

Besides, India can also cut down on its imports, especially from China, whose products are flooding Indian markets.

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