30 Oct, 2004 0204hrs IST Times News Network


PATNA: Makhana, a kind of dry fruit known as the "food of gods", may find its way to the dining tables of Europe as a fat-free organic food in a few years' time. At least one entrepreneur, Satyajit Kumar Singh, is trying for certification of various makhana products for their export to European markets.

"It's a long process and can take three years. But there is a great demand for fat-free and organic foods in Europe. And makhana fulfils both the criteria," Singh said while stressing that the percentage of protein and carbohydrate in makhana is 12 and 79 respectively.

Makhana has come into focus due to a project report prepared by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) and approved by the Planning Commission for its large-scale cultivation in Madhubani district. Now, the state government is all set to extend the project to seven more districts of Bihar. The project includes in its ambit giving seeds, financial support and technical assistance as well as purchasing the product from farmers.

"Makhana's potential to make inroads into foreign markets as well as into the domestic snack market, which alone must be worth Rs 20,000 crore a year, has remained untapped so far," said T N Jha of Nabard.

He said Bihar accounts for 80 per cent of makhana produced in the country. It is largely used on socio-religious occasions. Until the implementation of the project, makhana farmers were unable to get the due price of their product. "Around 40 per cent of the makhana produced in Madhubani was purchased for providing starch to the textile industry," he observed. Through his venture Shakti Sudha, Singh now purchases makhana worth Rs 6 crore a year from farmers in Madhubani and Darbhanga under the "backward linkage procurement programme" of the project. "We have an agreement with 1,700 farmers in the two districts and help them get loans and technical support from the National Makhana Research Centre at Darbhanga. We procure makhana at a rate ranging from Rs 50 to Rs 125 per kg. Before this programme, the farmers hardly got Rs 40 per kg from local middlemen," he said.