As four products of the Goan cuisine join the esteemed list of GI-tagged products, they are set to gain greater standing domestically and internationally, thus attracting connoisseurs with their authentic flavours and historical significance
Goa is famed as a global tourist destination for varied reasons, including its sun-kissed beaches, a thriving nightlife, the greenery you see in fields scattered all over the state and of course, its food. Thanks to its abundance of natural produce and different cultural influences, Goan cuisine is amongst the most unique when it comes to the diverse Indian palate.
This unique identity of Goan cuisine has been recognised officially by the Geographical Indication Registry in Chennai, which has awarded Geographical Indication (GI) tags to Goa’s Bebinca and Mancurad mangoes, after a two year effort.
GI tags are special as they are bestowed in order to protect and highlight the traditional knowledge, craftsmanship as well as distinct characteristics of products that owe their quality, reputation or other attributes to their geographical location. This accomplishment not only boosts local economies and promotes traditional artisans and growers but also fosters a sense of pride among the communities associated with these products. They are usually awarded for ten years and can be renewed periodically.
In addition to this, GI Tags have been awarded to Agsechi Vayingim (Brinjals from Agasaim) and Sat Shiro Bheno (Lady Finger) bringing the state’s total tag holding up to nine as they previously held tags for Feni, Khola Chilli, Harmal Chilli, Myndoli Banana and Goan Khaje.
The Queen of Goan Desserts
The All Goa Bakers and Confectioners Association, Colva, played a vital role in securing the GI tag for the famed Goan dessert, Bebinca, which is often referred to as the ‘Queen of Goan desserts.’
“We have already lost the authentic flavour in Goan bread due to commercialisation. Over time, there have been non-Goans baking Bebinca without following the original recipe and monetising it by selling it in Goa. The GI was therefore necessary to retain the authenticity of the Goan Bebinca,” stated Agapito Menezes, Head of the All Goa Bakers Association. He further said that the GI tag for the Bebinca will assure quality controls over the dessert.
This beloved dessert is made with simple ingredients like eggs, coconut milk, flour and ghee, but it takes a lot of precision and skill to get the formula right. Commercial as well as home bakers are equally elated by the awarding of the tag for the Bebinca. “Obtaining a GI tag for Bebinca is a significant achievement that will provide much-needed recognition and protection for this queen of Goan desserts. The Geographical Indication status will help preserve the authenticity and cultural heritage associated with Bebinca, ensuring that its unique qualities are maintained and appreciated by generations to come”, says Crescy Baptista, co-founder of The Goan Kitchen.
The Goan delicacy is widely exported, and now, with the GI tag, the All Goa Bakers and Confectioners Association can demand a better premium for this distinctive Goan product.
The Mancurad variety of mango is also called Malcorada, Cardozo Mankurad, Corado and Goa Mankur. The Portuguese named the fruit Malcorada, which means ‘poor coloured’, and with time, it became Mankurad aamo (Mankurad mango) in Konkani.
The application for the GI tag for the Mancurad mango was made by the All Goa Mango Growers Association, Panaji. Subsequently, the Mancurad is one of the best mangoes available and the tag will prove beneficial to the All Goa Mango Growers Association.
Deepak Parab, State Nodal Officer, GI Cell, Goa State Council for Science & Technology, says that in Goa there are a lot of variations in the Mancurad mango mainly due to the initial practice followed for propagation of this variety. “The GI certificate is given for the uniqueness of a particular produce mainly attributed to geographical conditions such as soil, climate and water of its origin or geographical area. With a GI certification for the Mancurad we are expecting three things which are selection of quality Mancurad (without fiber, the long staying variety and tolerance to climate change) for its seed bank and propagation. The second thing we are expecting to do is make quality grafts available to our Goan farmers with promotional schemes and lastly, technical and logistical support to initiate its export with the GI tag.”
Parab further feels that mango farmers need to address challenges and difficulties faced by them with regards to the above issues, through the association and put them across to the government in order to get maximum benefit for themselves. “In Goa, we prefer natural ripening which helps support its shelf life and makes it safe for consumption as compared to artificially ripened ones.”
Parab explains the process of acquiring a GI tag. “A GI certificate for any produce is not given to any individual; it is considered as community rights and given to a group of producers or farmers. We need to put our claim with proper chemical analysis proving its unique quality and relevant, historical data to prove its origin to GI registry and defend the same in the examination meeting along with our producers. In Goa, normally farmers are attached to the Department of Agriculture who are the link department for relevant schemes while our department is part of the Council of Science and Technology. Since we are do not have any farming related schemes, only those farmers who were aware of the GI certification and its likely benefits, associated with us. We had to put more efforts in order to reach out to maximum farmers representing each block.”
The Secretary of the All Goa Mancurad Growers Association, Nestor Rangel, who is a Goan farmer and agriculturist, says, “Goa has very few commercial orchards and most people have a tree or two in their gardens. With the GI tag we are planning to get farmers together, hopefully start a marketing system and export to other states that have a large concentration of Goans. With a GI tag and standardised packing we hope to sell genuine Mancurad mangoes in Goa and outside while ensuring better prices for the grower.
Miguel Braganza, horticultural consultant, columnist and mentor to the next generation in agriculture says, “The Mancurad or Malcurada mango is hot favourite of Goa and Goans. To us, mango means Mancurad, unless otherwise specified. It is the first mango that we look forward to eat each summer, even at Spring Equinox (22nd March), if available although at premium prices. The GI Cell of the Goa Department of Science and Technology needs to be congratulated for completing the stringent GI registration process with the collaboration of related departments and institutions.”
The GI Tag applications were submitted as follows: The All Goa Bakers and Confectioners Association, Colva, submitted the application for ‘Bebinca’, and the All Goa Mango Growers Association, Panjim, applied for the ‘Mankurad Mango’. The Agasaim Brinjal Growers and Sellers Association submitted for the ‘Agsechi Vayingim’ and the Goa Local Vegetables and Tubers Growers Association filed the application for ‘Sat Shiro Bheno’.
The Goa State Council for Science and Technology is also in the process of seeking a GI tag for more Goan products including the Korgut rice grown on Khazan land, Taleigao Brinjal and coconut Feni.
Parab states that efforts are being made to get GI tags for more agricultural products. “For agriculture produce we are working jointly with the zone level offices of the Agriculture Department. The membership of all agro-relevant associations is kept open to strengthen them further. But for other produce such as handicrafts, and food items we need to put more efforts to cover a maximum number of producers. We also need support from the print and digital media to create awareness amongst our producers who can come forward to form associations and seek technical support from us to file for GI applications. When any association is formed, the people who are part of these associations expect us to do everything instead of trying to work independently. At the council, we have been working under the able guidance of Dr. Levinson Martin, on how we can make our association more functional to provide the benefits of GI tagging to each producer with the support of the concerned link department.”
Further efforts are being made to acquire GI status for the Goan sausage, Mussarat mango, the Kunbi saree, and handicraft items such as coconut carvings and shell items.
Goa is keen on expanding its offerings of GI-tagged products so as to strengthen the visibility, guarantee and authenticity of the local products in domestic and international markets thus opening export avenues for them, while also being beneficial to those who produce such products.
The GI certification is expected to boost the food processing industry in the state.
All four of these items which have acquired the GI tag, are so uniquely Goan and their recognition marks a rise of localised produce, something that has been of great concern to locals, as the state becomes more of a tourist hub. These GI tags are sure to draw attention of global markets to the wealth of native history of the State and the potential to share these cultural gems with the world.