The Indian government has awarded, what’s called a Geographical Indication (GI) tag to Bihar’s Mithila Makhana (fox nuts). Mithila is a region in the state of Bihar.
What does this mean? Also, what’s Makhana?
Ok, so Makhana looks like this:
It’s a type of seed that comes from a plant named Euryale Ferox, also called Prickly Water Lily.
Makhanas are also called fox nuts or lotus seeds. They are widely cultivated throughout Asia but are mostly found in the Mithila region of Bihar. They are also used in many traditional medicines.
Ok, and what’s a Geographical Indication (GI) tag?
A GI tag is a sign that’s approved by the government (by a body called the Geographical Indications Registry) which is allowed to be used on certain products (in this case a food product) that come from a specific place (that is – a geographical origin) and have certain qualities due to being from that place.
Also, a GI tag is valid for a period of 10 years and can be renewed thereafter.
Give me an example
Ok, so you may have heard of Basmati rice or Darjeeling Tea? These were given the GI tags a while ago, so the name of the region could be attached to the product.
A Geographical Indication tag can be for other things also, apart from food and agricultural products. It can be given for handicrafts, some specific manufacturing skills, traditions, etc.
What’s the benefit?
It helps the product to sell. After a product gets a GI tag, only those who are authorized can produce and sell it for 10 years.
Also, the GI tag gives the producer legal protection and prevents those who are not authorised to sell and promote it for exports.
So, it basically helps the farmer who is producing this product in that region and also helps in preserving the culture of the place.
So, how will the GI tag help Mithila Makhana?
Now that Mithila Makhana has been granted the GI tag, any person or company is barred from selling a similar product under its name.
What places come under this geographical area?
Bihar’s Darbhanga, Muzaffarpur, Champaran, Begusarai, Madhubani, Katihar are some of the districts that come under this area that can produce Mithila Makhana.
How many Indian products have been given GI Tags?
About 400 or so.
Darjeeling Tea is said to be the first product to have receive a Geographical Indication Tag in India. That was in 2004.
Many have followed since then – like, Basmati rice, Lucknow Zardozi and Kashmir Walnut Wood Carving.
Also, a fun fact: Karnataka has the maximum number of GI-tagged products in India.
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