To popularise authentic tribal products across the country and increase its market share, the Tribal Affairs Ministry now plans to bottle mahua, the traditional tribal drink, and sell it in the open market across the country.
Pravir Krishna, Managing Director, Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED), said it will be sold as a mildly-alcoholic drink. “We plan to add various flavours to mahua such as ginger, pomegranate and ajwain (carom seeds), and sell it in the market like a mildly-alcoholic beverage, on the lines of the (Bacardi) Breezer.”
For this, TRIFED has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with IIT-Delhi, said Krishna. He said it would be “sourced mostly from Bastar, and will be sold all over the country under the brand name Mahua”.
The marketing plan will be done under the Tribal Affairs Ministry’s value-addition scheme launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur earlier this year. Called the Van Dhan Vikas Karyakram, Rs 500-600 crore has been earmarked under the nation-wide programme for training tribal clusters to add value to their produce and sell it in a packaged format, aiming to increase their income manifold.
Besides mahua, other tribal staples such as tamarind and amla will be de-seeded and brought to the market in the form of candies and jams.
A Ministry official said: “The first model Van Dhan Vikas Kendra under the project has been set up in Bijapur, at a cost of Rs 43 lakh, with a capacity to train 300 people, and provide equipment for primary-level processing. It will focus on tamarind brick making, mahua flower storage facility and chironjee cleaning and packaging.”
According to Krishna, the products marketed under the scheme will include only those that need primary-level processing including handicrafts, textiles, food items, jams and pulps, and jewellery. “What Amul did for milk, we want to do for non-timber forest produce through this scheme. Milk sold as milk wouldn’t have got the people of Anand anything. But if you turn it into yoghurt, ice-cream, desserts, the income increases manifold. That’s the model we will replicate,” he said.
Earlier, TRIFED, which was entrusted with setting up of Van Dhan Vikas Kendras to implement the scheme, tied up with IIT-Delhi to use mahua flower syrup to create chutney, jam, squash and non-alcoholic beverages.
The resultant Tamarind-Mahua Candy and pickle thus produced has been identified for bulk supply to Air India. This is the first time, however, that the ministry is getting into bottling and sale of alcoholic beverages. “Presently, we are in the process of getting clearances and licences for the same, and the product should be out within this year itself,” Krishna said.
A Ministry official said: “Over the next one month, our officers will be travelling to all the 27 states with tribal population, identify products that can be developed under the project and sign MoUs. As many as 30 new tribal products will be innovated within this year.”