Muzaffarpur district in Bihar despatches, for the first time, 523 kilograms of fresh litchis from its orchards, which are GI tagged, to the UK on May 24. Bihar is the largest cultivator of the fruit in India.
India is the world's largest producer of Litchi after China. Photo: Pixabay
There is cheer in the midst of all the COVID-19 gloom as Prince Kumar’s orchard in Punas village, Bihar, has yielded a bountiful crop of delicious litchis this season.
The 40-year-old’s litchi (Litchi chinensis) trees on his six bighas of land in Muzaffarpur district of the state, were part of the 523 kilograms of the fruit recently despatched to the United Kingdom. This is the first time Bihar, and indeed, India, has exported fresh litchis.
“Litchis have been exported for the first time from our village,” a pleased Kumar told Gaon Connection. Kumar hoped that this was the first of the many consignments to other parts of the world too.
The litchi from Bihar, referred to as Shahi litchi is the fourth product from the state to receive the Geographical Indication (GI) tag after Jardalu mango, Katarni rice and Magahi paan. A GI tag is given to products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities of a reputation that are due to that origin.
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The Litchi Growers Association of Bihar, based in Muzaffarpur, was granted GI recognition for the Shahi litchi in 2018. Muzaffarpur where Kumar has his orchards is one of the districts perfectly suited to grow the litchis.
India is the world’s largest producer of Litchi after China. According to the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, litchi is currently grown over an area of around 83,000 hectares across the country. Bihar’s litchi orchards alone cover about 35,000 hectares and produce 40 per cent of all litchi grown in the country.
Muzaffarpur alone has 11,000 hectares of litchi orchards. The other districts where the fruit grows in abundance are Vaishali, Samastipur, Champaran, Begusarai, and their neighbouring areas. Litchis are also grown in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, and West Bengal.
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“Fresh litchis as a fruit are being exported for the first time. As it is a perishable fruit, only the processed fruit was exported until now,” Nand Kishore, director of Bihar’s Directorate of Horticulture, told Gaon Connection.
“If all goes well, it will benefit many farmers in the next year. We have formed farmer associations that market the participating farmers’ fruits,” Kishore added.
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A newly established certification facility in Bihar’s capital, Patna has issued plant-hygiene certification for the export of Shahi litchi. The initial batch of these delicious fruits was procured from the orchards of Muzaffarpur’s farmers.
Because litchi is a perishable fruit, it is processed into various products to be shipped abroad.
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Bihar tops the production of litchi in India. The Government of Bihar facilitates the Agriculture and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) in formulating the Agri-Export Scheme, which will provide a roadmap for promoting agricultural and processed food products exports.
Once the state agri-export program is approved, the export potential of makhana (Fox nut), mango, litchi, and other fruits and vegetables can be fully realised.
The Bihar government, in collaboration with APEDA and other agencies, is working to build the necessary infrastructure, such as customs clearance facilities, laboratory testing facilities, pack-houses, and pre-cooling facilities, to take advantage of and boost the state’s agricultural export potential.
Meanwhile, the litchis from Prince Kumar’s garden in Muzaffarpur in India, add a fresh taste to summer meals in the United Kingdom.
Read the story in Hindi.