As many as ten horticultural products from across the eight states of the Northeastern region have got the coveted GI tag, thus giving them the much-needed recognition that these belong exclusively to the region and are legally protected from being produced elsewhere.
The list includes Naga tree tomato, Tezpur litchi, Assam Karbi Anglong ginger, Khasi mandarin, Kachai lemon, Memang narang, Arunachal orange, Mizo chilli, Sikkim large cardamom and Tripura Queen pineapple, all of which are now expected to bring better fortune for hundreds of tribal families across the region. All these items were accorded GI registration during 2014-15,
“It was a challenging task, especially because there is very little scientific documentation available on most of the items. Kachai lemon, for instance was a chance entry when a resident of Ukhrul district in Manipur showed us this small citrus fruit that is commonly used by most members of the Tangkhul community,” said S Bhattacharjee, executive director of North Eastern regional Agricultural Marketing Corporation Ltd (NERAMAC), which worked for the GI tag of these items.
NERAMAC, an organization under the minister for Development of North-Eastern Region (DoNER) also earned the distinction of being the only government PSU to have got GI registration for as many as 10 items, Bhattacharjee said. Assam Karbi Anglong ginger, as it has been registered now, on the other hand is a very fleshy yet fibrous ginger grown exclusively in the Karbi Anglong hill district in Assam, with the bulk of it going out to the mandis in the national capital region. “A few years ago then Karbi Anglong deputy commissioner M Angamuthu had set up a cooperative for the ginger growers and ensured that they got better price and were not cheated by middlemen. We were working on it since then until we got the GI tag for it recently,” Bhattacharjee said.
The most interesting fruit to have got the GI registration is Memang narang, a small citrus-like orange fruit belonging to the Garo Hills in Meghalaya but is on the verge of extinction. “Once grown in many homestead gardens by the Garo tribal community, very few plants of this fruit are now available, and that too in the wild. Once promoted, this fruit will provide a source of livelihood to many families,” the NERAMAC executive director said. What is however lacking is a long-term plan to encourage and support more farmers to grow these crops and then link them to the market both within the country and outside. “There are numerous such horticultural and agricultural crops all over the Northeast. But while we have failed to promote commercial cultivation of these of crops, there is hardly any market linkage, which has often frustrated farmers, especially when a good harvest goes waste,” said BK Sarma, an emeritus scientist with ICAR.