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  • Goa takes cashew trail for ‘feni’tastic year ahead

    Apr 8th, 2016

    The amendment, which is expected in the next Assembly session, will ensure that feni gets ‘Heritage Spirit of Goa’ status and manufacturers will be relieved from the ‘unwanted’ tag of feni being called country liquor. The government announced this move in the Budget and to give a further boost to this heritage spirit trade, has exempted it from the five percent levy on VAT, a move, hailed by all and sundry small time distillers in Goa.

    The feni-making industry is still largely unorganised, scattered, family-owned having trickled down over generations, and has been a cultural and culinary tradition. The need now is to ensure that distillers across the board standardise (eg alcohol content, aging method adopted, extraction of juice from cashew apple etc) their product and get themselves registered with the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) for State government certification of their product. To streamline this trade in which about 25,000 people are directly or indirectly involved, framing of a feni policy now becomes absolutely mandatory to regulate this industry.

    With the expected amendment in Goa Excise Duty Act, 1964 and cashew feni having already obtained Geographical Indication (GI), it will be for the Goa government to approach the various state governments to ensure that proper nomenclature of feni is done. This means that it will have to move to delist feni from the list of country liquors and induct it in the list of heritage spirits as has been done in the case of Rajasthan Royale liquors.

    The government is already in the process of designing the logo of the certification labels which will be pasted on each bottle. To bring in a level-playing field for all manufacturers, sensitivity and categorisation of the distillers is also required, especially in terms of traditional, semi-automated and automatic distillers. Along with these, the government needs to upgrade its laboratories under the Food and Drug Administration department for which the recent budgetary allocation of Rs 60 lakh for development of feni industry can be helpful.

    Tequila from Mexico, Champagne and Cognac from France have aged and settled gradually in the pallets of liquor conoisseurs. Aggressive coordinated marketing of their products helped them gain the shelf space of bars across the world. Goa needs to follow such footsteps. Psychologically, cheaper products hardly get shelf space and attention. Experts and brand ambassadors need to be roped in by the Goa government for their advice and action.

    Tourism Department has been holding roadshows and exhibitions, incurring huge expenses, all over the world and have been very proudly and prominently displaying feni in their stalls as a showpiece. It is time now for them to use their good offices to market this heritage spirit more vigorously and at virtually no extra cost. In case they do so, the small time feni manufacturers would surely welcome this move. Also, the mundane and repetitive Tourism Department’s exhibitions will have a fresh wiff and flavour to present before stall visitors. Needless to mention, the big ticket manufacturers of feni in Goa are already exporting their products by weaving their own channels.

    A high quality coffee table book on feni, tracing down its history, can add value in the marketing of this heritage spirit. The book can document the medicinal value of the drink, which at this stage, seems to be dwindling. Heritage always comes from history and the history of feni should not be lost as the younger generation is gradually moving away from this business and production is dipping. The Excise Department has also registered a sharp dip of Rs four lakh in revenue collection from feni manufacturers as against last year, which is a point to ponder upon.