Goa's Feni to get GI tag

Goa’s own drink, feni, will soon be India’s first country-made liquor to get the Geographical Identification (GI) tag. The GI, expected by January 2009, is “a name or sign used on certain products which corresponds to a specific geographical location or origin — a town, region, or country”. It acts as a certification that the product possesses certain qualities, or enjoys a certain reputation because of its geographical origin. “It’s like Scotch. No region other than Scotland can produce Scotch,” an official from the state’s excise ministry explained. The GI certification will ensure that Goa retains the term ‘Goan Cashew Feni’ and no other state/country can make a beverage with the same name, thereby clamping down Maharashtra’s plans to brew cashew feni. “GI will give recognition to feni while standardising its brewing process. This will be a benchmark for us. We will promote it abroad in the same league as champagne or tequila,” said Goa’s department of science and environment director Michael D’Souza.Feni is distilled from the fermented juice of ripe cashews. Goa has been producing feni for over four centuries. Over one thousand cottage industries and traditional brewers produce 8 lakh litres of feni every year. Feni is slowly gaining acceptance by both Indian and foreign tourists. It is also finding its way into markets abroad. State excise department reveals that about 40,000 cases of feni are exported every year, mainly to the US, UAE, Canada, Germany and the UK. People consider feni to be a poor man’s drink. Goa government has classified it under ‘country liquor’ segment, which means Feni cannot be exported to other states in India.But a GI recognition can change this. Feni will then be an ‘exclusive’ drink, giving it the much needed imagemakeover say marketers. “GI will give global recognition to Feni. It can also be our USP for promoting the drink abroad” said All Goa Cashew Distillers and Bottlers Association president Mac Vaz. Priced between Rs 70-900 (for the high-end ‘limited edition’ bottles), feni is not considered to be economically remunerative. These prices, however, are expected to increase three-fold after GI certification. “This certification will lay down proper process for brewing Feni. Once that is done, it will be easy to sell the drink in international markets,” said association secretary Gurudatt Bhakta. Besides, feni is also likely to re-classified as a ‘traditional drink’ taking it from the ‘country liquor’ category, which will boost sales.Geographical identification is an important element of the World Trade Organisation system that helps protect a state’s interest by preventing anyone from patenting it. According to experts, the exercise is an attempt to secure intellectual property right protection.The basmati patent by a US-based company compelled the government to take matter’s seriously. In 2002, a GI Registry was set up in Chennai under the commerce ministry. Currently, 42 items including Kolhapuri chappals, spices of Kerala, pickles from Andhra Pradesh, Kancheepuram silk sarees, Nagpur oranges and Darjeeling tea have been identified by the ministry for GI protection.

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