Goa’s list of products and produce that have a geographical indication (GI) has just lengthened with the Mancurad mango, bebinca, Agassaim brinjal and seven-sided lady’s finger being recognised as truly Goan.
This naturally is beneficial to Goa, especially for the mango and for the dessert – both of which are highly appreciated. But is it sufficient to get GI status or does the state then have to take the GI-tagged items to the next level?
That next step would mean taking these products – marketing them, essentially – outside the state, and not just the bebinca, Mancurad mango, Agassaim brinjal and seven-sided lady’s finger, but all the others that have GI status.
Except for cashew feni which has an industry behind it and so benefits from marketing that the private sector brings in, the other products are all from the unorganised sector and would necessarily require all the possible government support in their branding and marketing.
One has to just look at the Goan products that have GI status to appreciate that the state has some very unique, unrivalled products that need to be promoted.
The Mancurad, bebinca, Agassaim brinjal and seven-sided lady’s finger are not the first Goan items to be bestowed the GI tag.
There are now seven Goan products that have GI status, the first being cashew feni in 2009, that later was recognised by the state as a heritage brew.
Though just seven, they are all varied products, including the Khola chilli, Moira banana, Harmal chilli and khaje also known as kaddio boddio. Many others are on the list, such as cashew nuts, khatkhatem, Taleigao brinjal, and fish, curry and rice.
A question that raises itself is how then have these products and produce benefitted from the GI status that they have been accorded?
Besides the fact that this prevents the unauthorised use of a GI tag by others, have there been any other advantages? Some study or research could be undertaken to determine this.
Let us not overlook the fact that the GI tag also benefits consumers who can get quality products having all the traits of the original product and so are also assured authenticity of purchase.
When it comes to the bebinca, this assumes extreme importance, as the quality of the dessert that is available in the market varies from poor to good and can rarely be described as excellent.
It is imperative that there be some quality control in the making of the bebinca. The GI status application for bebinca was made by the All Goa Bakers and Confectioners Association.
It should now be their initiative to ensure that there is a standardisation in the making of the dessert.
Not only should the traditional process be followed as much as possible in the making, but the taste and quality of the bebinca that is sold are also important. Would it be possible to get some standardisation in the making process?
It may be difficult, as those making and selling bebinca are many and not all are bakers. It is also mass-produced in factories besides being made in homes and sold. Yet, when bebinca is now sold there, has to be some minimum quality that it should maintain. That is all that is asked for.
Similarly, there is the case of khaje, or kaddio boddio – the making of which is more of a seasonal occupation as the sweet is available mainly at temple zatras and church feasts.
The season begins in November and ends in May, with a monsoon break, when the number of fairs is severely reduced.
Where the Mancurad is concerned, there is also a need to protect the consumer from price rises while allowing the growers to make a decent profit too.
What this requires is some price stabilisation. The season just ended for instance at the height of the mango season – late April and early May.
When one would expect to be able to purchase the Mancurad variety at a reasonable price, the fruit was selling at over Rs 100 a piece in the Panjim market.
Prices did drop days later, but such an exorbitant asking rate will not benefit the farmers and retailers as it will reduce sales, leading to waste as this is a perishable item.
The work does not end with obtaining GI status. It starts at another level.
The Mancurad mango, the Khola chilli, the Harmal chilli, etc can be taken together for a marketing and branding exercise that will take these GI-tagged products to another level.