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Spain relishes Assam food products

Jorhat, April 28: Wood apple tea, green tea, white mustard seeds, Moran ginger, turmeric, mushrooms and glutinous rice were some of the things Assam had sent to Alimentaria 2014, Spain’s largest food festival held recently.

Among these, the European country has sought nearly 30 quintals each of white mustard powder and turmeric and about 115 quintals of broken rice.

The large order has sent members of Protein Food, a consortium of small producers of the state who were instrumental in carrying the goods to Spain, into a tizzy.

The six-by-eight feet stall in which Protein Food displayed its items at Alimentaria, cost nearly Rs1 lakh.

It was sponsored by the National Small Industries Corporation.

Pranjal Baruah, chief executive officer of Protein Food and an Ashoka Fellow, who took samples of items from Meghalaya, Nagaland and several places of Assam, including Laluk, Dikom and Lakhimpur, said the fair was an eye-opener.

“We came to know what the European countries actually desired from India. I had carried a few kilogrammes of joha rice (scented variety of rice), bara saul (sticky rice) and kumol saul (rice which can be eaten raw after soaking in water for a few hours). However, what they wanted was the parboiled thick variety of rice and the broken rice, which the mill owners here keep aside,” he said.

He later came to know that the broken rice, which they bought cheaply from here, was used in the meat industry as an ingredient of poultry food pellets.

“Possibly the parboiled rice was resold to Middle East countries, a market unknown to us,” he said, adding that in Europe they preferred the long-grained rice.

“Our turmeric was the best with highest curcumin content and the white mustard was also in demand in the powdered form,” he added.

Baruah appealed to the buyers to be part of social enterprise values and support land owners and producers at the grassroots level.

“Protein Food comprises those who own land and produce as well. By buying goods from them, one will be part of a network supporting social enterprise,” he said.

Baruah said there were many challenges in procuring the items for which the orders had been received.

“We have to send the actual quantity on time and the quality should meet international export standards. Just procuring the specified quantities will not do,” he said.

In Madrid, Baruah held meetings with food entrepreneurs who had launched new products and tried to sell some of the produce.

“I have made a beginning and become a part of blogs written by people of Spain. One Antonio has written a series of blogs on us and our activities and this is very encouraging,” he said.


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