List of GI-tagged Agricultural Products of Bihar

A Geographical Indicator (GI) Tag is a formal mark awarded to a specific product to distinguish and authenticate it, and prevent forgery, duplication and mock sub-standard emulation. In simple words, these tags define, specify and guarantee the authenticity of a hallmark product by defining and delimiting its geographical scope and creation process.

Let us have a look at the items and crafts that have earned a GI-tag and appropriated enough repute to become salient to their respective areas and localities in Bihar. GI-tags are awarded in various categories, namely – Agricultural, Clothing, Foodstuff, Footwear, Forest Produce, Handicrafts, Manufactured, Medicine, Natural Goods, Spice, and Textile. In this article, we cover the agricultural products, which have earned the coveted distinction under their exquisite breeding, exceptional refinement, finesse or deliciousness:

1)   Magahi Paan

Magahi paan is an elite variety of betel which is cultivated in Aurangabad, Gaya and Nalanda districts of central Bihar. It’s non-fibrous, sweeter, and more delicate and delectable than the other members of its class. Note that the tag is awarded for the agricultural produce, the betel vine crop-plant breed, and not the culinary preparation of the betel, as it is listed under the ‘Agricultural’ categorisation and not under ‘Foodstuffs’.

The voluntary cooperative organisation, the Magahi Paan Utpadak Kalyan Samiti of village Deuri in Nalanda district was the applicant for the Magahi Paan. Research papers and historical documentation, particularly those of British sociologists, linguists and cultural historians were cited to substantiate the endemic nature of the products. These pieces of evidence established the exclusive belongingness of this crop to the Magadh region of Bihar. The Paan’s traditional lineage can be traced right back to the ancient period, with texts evidencing towards its widespread prevalence in the locale, including consumption by the royalty.

2)   Jardalu Mango

Bhagalpur’s reputed light yellow-skinned, distinctively aromatic mangoes have been the most coveted variety in Central-East India. The application for GI-tag was moved by Jardalu Aam Utpadak Sangh, the Producers’ Union for the unique variety, situated in Madhuban, Maheshi village of the Bhagalpur district. A 200-year old Jardalu tree located in the Tagepur village was cited as the veritable matriarch for all of the salient cultivar in the region. The half-pound thin-peel mango, popular for its aroma, has persisted a mainstay on the state government’s annual present repertoire directed to be gifted to an assortment of an odd 40 VVIPs including the Hon’ble President of India and the Prime Minister.

3)   Katarni Rice

It is known for its special flavour and distinctive fragrance. This short-grained rice is natively grown in the Bhagalpur and Banka districts of Bihar. Agronomists attribute its uniqueness to optimal soil composition, that is found in these regions. However, indiscriminate Green Revolution and reckless fertiliser and pesticide abuse, along with topsoil erosion, leaching by surface run-off, mild acidulation and heavy-metal contamination are threatening its sustenance and viability, pushing agriculture down a fatal loop of unsustainable swamping out with chemical fertilisers.

Legend has it that the local regent Maharaja Rahmat Ali Khan Bahadur of Kharagpur pioneered Katarni plantation in the region. From this virgin batch of seeds, virtually all of today-observed crop is proliferated. The region was suitable for the nascent, budding variety and it thrived and flourished on the soil of Bhagalpur. The variety had originated as a superior chance seedling, likely a product of a spontaneous fluke – the precarious process of mutation. This strand is known for its long and thin grain and fragrance. In the Geographical Indicator journal, it is remarked that this rice variant is ‘one of the famous fine grain quality scented rice of Bihar’.

For Katarni paddy, the journal had registered the paddy growers’ Union of Jagdishpur village in the Bhagalpur district.

4)   Shahi Litchi

The immensely popular pearly-white Litchis of Muzaffarpur and adjoining regions enjoys global appeal and demand, and consequentially governmental patronage and extensive research coverage.

“Shahi litchi from Bihar registered as a GI. Muzaffarpur, Vaishali, Samastipur, Champaran, Begusarai districts and adjoining areas of Bihar have a favourable climate for this fruit, unique due to the attractive appearance and delicious pearly white aril (sic)”, read a tweet from the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion.

According to the Times of India, “The GI-tag conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness,” said Bachcha Prasad Singh, president of Litchi Growers’ Association of Bihar.

The state accounts for two-fifths of the national Litchi production, of which (in-turn) three-fifths are comprised by Shahi Litchis. The patent makes it an exclusive brand and is being seen as an economic impetus to the litchi-growers of the region.

Bihar is a land of numerous locale-specific, typical products of salient craftsmanship-extraordinaire. To avoid disputes (ranging from petty neighbours to those between states) and avert conflation and ambiguity, GI tags are awarded to characterise specific products, ranging from the edible to the sartorial. GI tags award residents the near-exclusive right to use the popular (common) product name and hence foster local artisanship, support endemic and traditional artificers and handicraftsmen, and prevent appropriation by foreign and/or nationwide mass-manufactures.

 

These GI-tags are a testament to the prowess and persevering tour-de-force of Bihari agriculturists over successive generations. They’ve not only made Bihar a prosperous land of flourishing crops – the food basket of India but also given it distinctive products known for their supreme quality. Bihar’s famous makhana, the aquatic Gorgon-nut or foxnut, which is prepared as a nutritious snack, is also being vouched and vetted by authorities towards consideration for award of a GI-tag.

- Pitamber Kaushik, PatnaBeats

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