It is time that the Goa government needs to bring out their much awaited Feni Policy. Yes, the wait will be stretched further as the Code of Conduct has been enforced for the upcoming 2019 elections. However, the distillers or the ‘bhaticars’ are eagerly waiting for the Policy. VIKANT SAHAY talked to several stakeholders in the Feni industry to get the feel on how the industry is eager to see the implementation of the Policy.
Feni is synonymous to Goa which is not only recognised by tourists visiting the State but also by the local Goans who relish this ‘homemade’ drink, which after several rounds of deliberation with the state government has finally got a status of ‘heritage liquor’. Nearly 1200 persons, who bid the zones in the auction, install the stills and produce cashew liquor in the State. Apart from these, there are around 22 licence holders who are producing and bottling Feni in the State. In addition, there are more than 8,900 wholesalers and retailers selling Feni. However, despite all this we still do not have a Feni Policy. In fact, the draft policy is ready and the government can only take decision on it after the code of conduct for this upcoming 2019 election is over.
Even though there is no brand ambassador for Feni from Goa, to give a boost to the industry, Goa University helped drafting Feni policy for standardisation of Feni. The Goa University had submitted that the official Feni Policy relates to the GI in respect of Cashew Feni falling in Class 33 for alcoholic beverages registered in the name of Goa Cashew Feni Manufacturers and Bottlers Association and Department of Science, Technology and Environment registered on December 19, 2007 and given a unique Geographic Identity No. 120.
On February 27, 2009, Feni was successfully registered as GI and granted the certificate for registration under the Geographical Indication Act 1999, which fall in class 33 for Alcoholic Beverages and registered under GI-120. The Geographical Indication registry certificate bearing No. 120 was issued by the Registrar of Geographical Indication on March 5, 2009 at Chennai. The Government therefore constituted a committee under the chairmanship of the Commissioner of Excise to chalk a road map for drawing the benefits of the GI and advise in development of Feni. On May 23, 2009, Feni became the first Indian beverage to have obtained the GI status.
Initially, only tourists who visited Goa showed interest in tasting this “local” drink Feni. However, with passing time and word of mouth marketing coupled with development in technology and bottling, many units from Goa are now exporting Feni within India and overseas. Some of the major units exporting this drinks are Cazcar ‘Pent’, Global Spirits & Foods, Todacco Industries, Adinco Distillery, Ansa Industries etc.. No surprise that Feni has also became the first Indian beverage to have obtained the Geographical Indication (GI) status.
Another aspect which requires immediate attention is that even though Feni is exported and sold all around the globe, most of the States within India do not allow it to be retailed. Surprisingly, Feni can be exported outside India but not within the country in many states. This is due to the fact that Feni has been categorised as country liquor and the other states do not permit the import of country liquor in their respective States. There are various traditional and social uses of Feni, medicinal practices, cooking and many more aspects associated with Feni, but unfortunately, not recognised outside Goa. A proper Feni Policy will surely help Feni to grow within the country.
Founder President of Goa Cashew Feni Distillers and Bottler’s Association and Director of Madame Rosa Distillery, Mac Vaz told Herald that, “Just as the purpose of Geographical Indication (GI) registration was to protect the goodwill of the stakeholders of Feni from outside infringement, the implementation of the Feni Policy will go a long way to ensure that there is rein in on infringements by the few stakeholders who compromise on the production guidelines and the ultimate loser becomes the customers who is not sure what product one is buying in the market.”
Vaz added that, “these unscrupulous stakeholders are the biggest enemies of the equity brand Feni and of Goa. We are happy that the Excise Department and the Tourism Department are working in tandem with the genuine stakeholders to protect and promote the goodwill of Feni.”
Gurudatta Bhakta the Managing Partner of Cazcar told Herald that, “This is the best thing that it could have ever happened for Feni. First, there is a conscious focus on quality and standardisation as products now available in the market about 95 per cent are fake. Secondly the credibility in the industry will improve because as of now people do simply stick on their labels that the product has been matured for 8, 12, 18 years etc which is not credible and genuine. This Policy will surely regularize and standardise the entire Feni industry.”
Hansel Vaz Founder of Cazulo Premium Feni while speaking to Herald said that, “The Excise Commissioner is really pushing it forward and we need the Policy for standardisation and protection of the livlihood and the culture of the people who are engaged in this industry. This Policy will surely have a direct impact in the villages of Goa. One can create policy or laws. Laws are nothing but it governs the policy which creates the roadmap for the industry. Till now, there is no roadmap and hence, this industry in not standardised. Basically people are working in this industry through intuition and culture and hence Policy will help in a great deal to make it reach at the top level.”Hansel added that apart from the GI we took the pains to ensure that the Food and Drugs Administration of Goa cast a special category for Feni which was categorised as ‘other country liquor’ and later got a tag of ‘Heritage liquor’. Tukaram Haldankar Managing Partner of Cashew Lana is of the opinion that, “GI and the Heritage liquor tag has helped us a lot. The Feni Policy will help us trade and grow more. Now it is up to government of Goa to come out with the policy as we have done our job.”