Though we go for the idea of unity in diversity, the legacy of claiming one's birthright over a commodity prevails. Districts, states, countries and organisations try and claim their rights over products and artefacts that prevent its use by any third party whose product doesn’t conform to the applicable standards.
The spotlight fell on Geographical Indication (GI Tag) ever since the row over the origin of confection, Rasagulla. West Bengal and Odisha sparred over GI, a tag used as an indication on products which corresponds to a geographical location or origin. Just as the other rights like copyright, patent and trademark, the Geographical Indication gave rights and protection to Odisha’s version of the sweetmeat while West Bengal was given the tag for ‘Banglar Rasogolla’.
Rasgulla isn’t the only food commodity from India to have been moved legally for the Intellectual Property Right. Tirupati Laddu, Bikaner Bhujiya, Hyderabadi Haleem, Naga Mircha, Cashew Feni, Dharwad Peda, the list goes on, as a matter of fact, Darjeeling tea was the first product from India to obtain the GI tag back in 2004.
To name a few food products from Kerala:
Palakkadan Matta Rice: Registered by the Palakkadan Matta Farmers Producer Company, this indigenous variant grows in the dense black soil of Palakkad in Kerala. Mistaken to be brown rice, this variety has a shade of red. This rice is soaked for a minimum of 1 hour to overnight before it is cooked and is the one that is served for Sadhya. It also goes by the names – Rosematta and Puzhukkalari.
Wayanadan Robusta Coffee: Of the total coffee production in the State, Wayanad contributes to almost 90% of it. The Robusta variant of the Wayanadan coffee with its strong flavour and higher caffeine content than the Arabica variant received GI tag along with the other coffee verities from India in March 2019.
Vazhakulam Pineapple: Kerala has a town that is famously addressed as the ‘Pineapple City’, thanks to large scale cultivation of Pineapple here. Vazhakulam near Thodupuzha in Idukki also has the largest Pineapple market in Asia, more like a Pineapple wonderland! Vazhakulam Pineapple received the GI tag for their Mauritius variant that they cultivate, it is claimed to be the sweetest in India. ‘Kannarachakka’ with love from Vazhakulam to the world!
Marayoor Sharkara: The farmers belonging to the Muthuvan tribe is responsible for the craft of making Marayoor’s famous ‘Undasharkara’. The production of one of the sweetest jaggery from Idukki still follows the traditional method, at makeshift tents that are set up in the sugarcane farm itself. The juice of the sugarcane is reduced until it thickens and rolled into balls, by hand, before it cools down, thus giving it the name ‘undasharkara’.
Chengalikodan Nendran Banana: Popular for its distinctive size, shape, colour and taste, this banana variant is considered to be the favourite fruit of Guruvayurappan, the presiding deity of Guruvayur temple in Thrissur, Kerala. Nendran is the variant that gets sliced and fried into the celebrated ‘Kerala Banana Chips’.
For a food product to be entitled to the GI tag, it must historically originate from one particular region alone. This legal tag carves out a niche market for the products that receive them. Once received it has a validity period of ten years and requires renewal. This stamp aids in providing small scale industries with the reputation it deserves, and in the upliftment of artisanal food culture.
Information Courtesy: Aishwarya Maria Manjooran
(The author is a food blogger and culinary enthusiast.)