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UP’s Chandauli spreads Chak-Hao’s aroma while Manipur government sits on GI process

Chak Hao

Disappointed at state government’s apathetic attitude, ACOAM-Lup threatened to ban sale of Chak-Hao and its other value added product without GI in the state

TFM Desk

It has been more than one year since Chak-Hao, a glutinous aromatic black rice variety of Manipur, bagged the Geographical Indication (GI) tag. The GI status was supposed to give much-needed fillip to commercial cultivation of Manipur’s special rice variety and its marketing across the world. However, it is still cultivated in small pockets for local consumption, not at a commercial level.

Chak-Hao received GI status for its local specific and unique properties. GI tag is an indication that identifies products which originate or are produced from a particular area and have the special quality that is attributable to its geographical origin.

However, farmers are still clueless about the benefits and use of GI tagging. The state government displayed little interest in bringing awareness among farmers about the nitty-gritty of GI tag. No progress is visible on the ground.

Amid this Manipur government’s apathetic approach, the success story of Uttar Pradesh Chandauli district’s black rice experiment and reported plan for GI registration came as quite a shock to All Club Organisation Association and Meira Paibi Lup (ACOAM-Lup).

In a press statement, ACOAM-Lup expressed disappointment at the state government’s attitude and threatened to ban sale of this aromatic rice and other value-added product without GI in the state. It will file a PIL to ascertain why there is no progress among farmers even though they have been funded for more than four years, it added.

Chanduali’s success journey

According to The Print, Chanduali started producing the ‘healthier’ black rice in 2018. This commodity is now being exported to Australia and New Zealand, with options of other countries also being explored.

“The project is being seen as a huge success due to high demand and good profit margin on black rice in global markets,” said the report.

The report further said the cultivation of black rice in areas around Chandauli, which is called the as ‘rice bowl of eastern UP’, received a major boost after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath branded and marketed the product in the neighboring district of Mirzapur as ‘Vindhya black rice’. 

Moreover, its cultivation has been promoted under various schemes of the Yogi government, such as ‘One District-One Product’ and ‘Export Policy 2020-25’. These schemes aim at doubling farmers’ income and increasing exports from various sectors including agriculture, it added.

The Print reported quoting Ajay Singh, a farmer in Chandauli producing and exporting black rice, as saying that due to immense profit in producing black rice against usual rice, the number of farmers cultivating it has increased from 15-20 in 2018 to 750-800.

“We started its cultivation after bringing the seed in 2017 from Manipur after which we multiplied it and started producing it from next year onwards,” said Ajay Singh.

As per the report, he said that the acreage has also increased from 1,500 hectares in 2018 to over 6,500 hectares now, “which will increase further as farmers from neighboring districts have also taken seeds from us”.

The report further stated quoting another farmer as saying, “Manipur having GI tag has created problems for us to market our black rice despite having an FPO. Henceforth, we are also doing a GI registration of our native ‘Adam chini’ rice.”

Sluggish progress in Manipur post GI tag to Chak-Hao

After receiving the GI tag, a Chak-Hao Monitoring Committee (CMC) was formally constituted on May 12, 2020. The committee was set up to monitor, evaluate and control quality in the production of Chak-Hao and also to regulate the use of Geographical Indications of Chak-Hao produce by marketing agencies for welfare of its local producers.

However, according to the All Club Organization Association and Meira Paibi Lup (ACOAM-Lup), the farmers do not know whether they are growing right Chak-Hao cultivar conforming to the properties mentioned in the GI. Experts in CMC are yet to initiate a process to maintain GI jurisdiction. Though in CMC’s meeting on May 12,  2020, it was decided that Chak-Hao produce shall have the GI tag for those which are registered for traceability, no step has been taken up to enable government-funded entrepreneurs and private entrepreneurs use of GI tag. No application or invitation was sought from them in this regard so far.

ACOAM-Lup further claimed that even Chak-Hao farmers who have been funded under Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region (MOVCDNER) since the 2016-17 period, do not know how to use the GI tag  and properly identify the actual rice species that bagged the GI tag.

However, an area of 1,000 hectares was also reportedly added under MOVCDNER funding last year, it added.

ACOAM-Lup urged the CMC and Consortium of Chak-Hao Growers to do all the needful to raise awareness about the use of GI Tag to all the Government funded and private entrepreneurs to retain uniqueness of ‘Chak-Hao’. 

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