With several big companies having failed the ‘honey purity’ test conducted by New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) through a laboratory in Germany, Punjab’s Cooperative Supply and Marketing Federation Limited, which is popularly known as Markfed, has been flooded with demand queries from local as well as overseas market for its honey that cleared the purity test. Markfed’s Sohna honey was among the brands that cleared the purity test among 13 brands tested.
Markfed insiders said that the government agency managed to maintain quality standards thanks to SOPs like proper registration of farmers (beekeepers), providing them honey collecting buckets with unique bar-codes, preliminary testing, proper batching, and final testing before packing in its honey at processing plant.
In the purity test it was found that all the major brands of India, which have big names in the honey market, were selling honey laced with modified sugar syrup.
Markfed, which is one of the Asia’s largest marketing cooperative federation is in the field of honey’s marketing for the past two decades, has been procuring its honey directly from the farmers (beekeepers) and had set up a state-of-the-art honey processing plant in 2016 in Markfed Cannery, which had increased its production three-fold compared to its old unit.
“We have been getting a lot of queries across India and from overseas about the supply of our product following the passing of the purity test by Markfed,” said Managing Director (MD) Markfed Varun Roojam, adding that our main focus is on the quality not the quantity and we are increasing the production too.
“We have registered farmers from across the Punjab mainly from Kandi area (sub-mountainous range of Shivalik hills) in Hoshiarpur, Nawanshahr, Ropar and Mohali areas and several other districts of the state and every record of these beekeepers is kept at the plant for quality purpose,” said MD Roojam, adding that even to collect the honey, Markfed provides unique bar-coding number buckets to the bee keepers to avoid any adulteration at the time of collection and then two preliminary tests are conducted before sealed honey in the buckets reaches processing plant so that adulteration, if any, can be tested at the beginning only and such honey can be stopped from reaching the plant.
After processing, another in-house purity test is conducted, informed the MD.
Earlier, Markfed had received SKOCH award, which is highest civilian award, in 2017 for introducing barcode technology for honey procurement.
“I have been supplying 10 to 20 tonnes of honey to Markfed annually as per their demand since 2016 and its quality testing system is very appreciable as their staff come and take the sample of our collected honey in the buckets provided by them and buckets are sealed by them and after testing in the advanced laboratories we get the nod to supply those sealed buckets to the plant where we get the payment within 36 hours of our supply,” said farmers, Dharminder Singh (49) from Dharamgarh Village in Mohal District, adding that being a beekeeper he himself demands NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) test for honey so that only pure honey could be available in the market rather having these sugar laced syrups.
Singh is in beekeeping occupation for the past 25 years and owns 600 boxes of bees which he keeps across the state, in Shivalik ranges, and outside the Himachal, Rajasthan as per availability of the flowers with the changing seasons. He also runs a group of 100 beekeepers who own 30,000 bee-boxes and supply honey to the exporters.
He said that the best part of the Markfed is that there it not only maintains the quality but also a fair dealing takes place here with the farmers.
“Farmers have an agreement with Markfed to supply the honey,” he said, adding that from single box 3 to 5 kg unprocessed honey is procured in a week to 10 days if the flowering season is on, but in the rainy season there is hardly any production for 3-4 months.
Another beekeeper, Simarjeet Billa, who also supplies honey to Markfed, shared similar views.
“We had 200 to 300 registered beekeepers and the honey plant has a capacity to process 300 tonnes of honey per day and currently around 60 metric tonnes of honey is being processed and sold annually by Markfed and the expansion is taking place gradually,” said Jaswinder Singh, Senior Marketing Manager, Markfed. He added that being a government body our main motive is not to make big profits but to supply pure eatables to the consumer.
Apart from honey, Markfed Cannery plant is equipped to produce 66 lakh cans and 48 lakh pouches of ‘Ready to Eat’ food per annum.
In addition, it has the capacity to produce 5.60 lakh cans of fruit in syrup and 18 lakh bottles of ketchup and jam every year. Likewise, the spices grinding line produces 11 lakh pouches of various spices every year.
“Markfed products are globally popular. Around, 10 to 15 containers of the Sohna products per month and couple of millions of can of ‘saag’ are exported annually to developed nations such as the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Europe and Gulf countries,” said MD Roojam, adding that Markfed has engaged several 100 farmers to produce ‘sarson’ to make ‘sarson da saag’, basmati, wheat flour, jaggery (in this season) including organic products, and all these are very popular among Punjabis settled abroad.
To meet the huge demand of Markfed Sohna products a large number of employed both men and women, who are specialists in cooking and selecting saag from the fields, are employed along with farmers who supply them raw material.
Also Markfed’s packed ready-to-eat products have started gaining popularity in the domestic market too as Markfed has designed a pan India marketing programme for popularizing its products.
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