BY THE EDITOR
December has been kind to the Khasi Mandarin orange and, by extension, to Meghalaya. It all started with the move to export 20 metric tonnes of the juicy citrus fruit, which has earned the GI tag already, to Dubai; in fact, the first export of two tons of the orange was done in December last year to Doha and Bahrain after a trial shipment to Dubai. Soon after, the fruit set sail for Bengaluru to ZestFest, an extravaganza dedicated to honouring its flavours and cultural essence. Going by reports and claims, the Khasi Mandarin orange has been able to make a mark for itself over the three days of ZestFest. The state government’s initiative to showcase one of state’s pride in the horticultural sector is welcome; in these days aggressive promotion and marketing are a must to sell anything and reap decent returns for those who grow the produce or make products out of these. Over the two events, Agriculture & Farmers Welfare Minister M Ampareen Lyngdoh has assured that the government is committed to supporting farmers; the commitment should gladden the farming community.
Before partition of the Indian subcontinent on August 15, 1947 oranges from Ri War region of the United Khasi and Jaintia (UK&J) Hills district in the then composite state of Assam earned high reputation for their quality and taste and were mainly exported to the plain regions of present-day Bangladesh. Chief trading centre was the border village of Shella which suffered much due to the severe 1897 earthquake. Because road connectivity was greatly affected so alternative ropeway facilities became popular mode of transport. But after partition, border was closed and export came to a halt, so people living in border areas faced untold miseries and economic hardships and many of them migrated to Ri Bhoi region in search of greener pastures to sustain their lives.
The Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region (MOVCDNER) which is a sub-mission under National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture has initiated and encouraged local farmers to grow fruits, especially oranges, not only for domestic consumption but also for exporting outside. Ministry of Commerce and Industry through its apex agricultural export promotion body APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) in association with the department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare of the state government assists in export. The die is now cast for the government to market the state’s other agro-horticultural products too in a big way.