India’s foreign exchange reserves stood at USD 582.04 billion, as of March 12, 2021, according to an RBI data. For a country like India, that wishes to accelerate its exports to USD 1 trillion over the next 4-5 years, Geographical indicators (GI) can be one of the most crucial and pragmatic instruments to achieve this feat.
And with the season’s first consignment of Shahi Litchi having been exported from Bihar to United Kingdom today, it becomes confirmed that India indeed is focusing on doing its bit to increase the exports of items having GI certified tags.
What is GI tag & how many are with India?
Geographical Indication (GI) tag is a proof of where the product is born or produced. This product can be natural, agricultural or manufactured. The use of GI, as an indication of the product’s origin, acts as a certification that the product has exclusive qualities, is made/produced according to traditional methods, or has a good reputation due to its geographical origin.
Darjeeling tea had become the first GI tagged product in India back in 2004. Today, India has a total of 371 items which have registered geographical indications (GIs). (See Link – https://ipindia.gov.in/writereaddata/Portal/Images/pdf/GI_Application_Register_10-09-2019.pdf)
The recent most GI tag was sought by Jammu and Kashmir Government for its Gucchi mushrooms which are highly expensive and are full of health benefits. In 2020, saffron grown in Kashmir had received the geographical indication (GI) tag as it is long, thick, and has natural deep red colour. Also, it has high aroma and is processed without adding any chemicals.
Other popular Indian products that have GI tag are Basmati Rice, Mysore silk, Madhubani paintings, Jaipur Blue pottery, Goan Fani, Hyderabadi Haleem, Naga Mircha, Nagpur orange, Meerut Scissors, Alphonso, Konark Stone carving, Machilipatnam Kalamkari, Kota Doria, Phulkari, Sikkim Large Cardamom, Makrana Marble , Vengurla Cashew, Pethapur Printing Blocks, and many other.
What makes Bihar’s Royal Litchi so special?
Bihar tops in terms of the production of litchi. Shahi litchi was the fourth agricultural products to get GI certification from Bihar in 2018. The GI registration for Royal Litchi is held with the Muzaffarpur-based Litchi Growers Association of Bihar. Districts of Muzzafarpur, Champaran, Begusarai, Vaishali, Samastipur, and adjoining areas of Bihar have favorable climate for growing Shahi Litchi.
The chapter in GI journal number 107 related to Shahi litchi states, “The quality of Shahi litchi in Muzaffarpur, Samastipur and adjoining areas is better with juicy aril with very good sugar-acid blend and aroma… It is said that due to high calcium content in soil, litchi is better in these areas.”
Other products with GI tags from Bihar
Apart from Royal Litchi, other products that have sought GI tag certification from the state of Bihar are
– From Handicrafts: Madhubani Paintings, Khatwa work, Sujini embroidery work, Sikki grass products, Bhagalpur silk
– From Agriculture: Bhagalpuri Zardalu, Katarni Rice, Magahi Paan
– Food stuff: Silao Khaja
Indian Lichi production and Export
India is the second-largest producer of litchi (Litchi chin) globally, after China. In India, the translucent, thick edible pulp of the litchi is consumed, while in China and Japan, it is preferred in dried or canned form.
As per data uploaded on APEDA, Nepal is the largest importer of Indian Litchi, followed by the UAE, the United Kingdom, Qatar, Bahrain, Canada, Singapore, Lebanon, Malaysia, Bhutan, Brunei, to name a few. India had exported a total of 1352.47 quintals of Litchi in 2019-20 earning Rs. 45.74 lakh, 1599.61 quintals in 2018-19 earning Rs. 137.27 lakh and 1082.40 quintals in 2017-2018 for Rs. 57.98 lakh.
Efforts by State government
APEDA has been assisting the governemnt of Bihar in implementation and formulation of the State agri-export plan which would provide blueprint plan for boosting agricultural & processed food products exports from the State. Once the State agri-export plan gets finalised, the export potential of mango, litchi, Makhana, and other fruits & vegetables can be harnessed.
Bihar government is also pressing efforts in association with APEDA and other agencies for creating required infrastructures such as laboratory testing facility, pre-cooling facility, customs clearance, pack-houses etc. which would harness and boost agricultural exports potential of the State.