Finding feni in Goa may be a herculean task in future!

THE GOAN NETWORK | MAY 08, 2022, 12:07 AM IST


Weather has been erratic in the last few seasons, hitting the local production of various agriculture crops including the popular cashew apples that go into making the popular alcoholic beverage feni. 

The changing climatic conditions have impacted the cashew crop in a big way, which has cut the amount of feni distillation to almost half this year. 

However, the prices of feni are certainly up by 15-25% in this season according to sources from the industry.

Trying to get to the root cause of the reasons for reduced production of the cashew crop and whether it affected the feni production, The Goan spoke to some of the distillers in Goa.

Founder president of Cashew Feni Distillers and Bottlers Association Mac Vaz, who was at the forefront when feni got the GI tag in 2009 says the reason for cashew crop going dry is the unseasonal rains and erratic winters, He also blames deforestation, abuse of resources and disregard for nature and earth. 

Calling Feni as the ‘shaan’ of Goa and ‘pehchan’ of India, Mac points out that the State is appreciating this potential that adds value to Goa tourism USP with the ‘Made in India’ Swadeshi emotion.

Gurudatta Bhakta, the second generation distiller from Nanora in North Goa feels that this heritage drink needs a shot in the arm as far as organised production is concerned.

Asking, how can one cope when the produce is regulated by nature, Bhakta says “we can sell only what nature has provided. Cashew apples are being brought from neighbouring States but the effect is all around so shortage is there. Planting more cashew saplings in the State would be the answer as a long term solution.”

“We are looking forward to exports this year as Covid kept our operations shut during the past season,” he said. He also opines that we need to boost the standard of feni which can be done by standardised production and hygiene. 

Vaz expresses concern about the much-required motivation for the GenNext in this business. “The State must come on board to educate, support, subsidize and encourage this traditional Cazkar and Bhattikar trade which supplements the income”, he said. 

Mac also felt the need to make the trade lucrative as Mexico has done with Tequila or South Korea has done with Soju.

Feni, if stored and matured, has a very long shelf life which could run into decades. Sadly, most of the cashew harvest is not nurtured (as is done in the wine industry) because most of the Goan crop is being spread out across the hinterland and in forest areas where access and commercial viability are the stumbling blocks.

If distillation does not generate even Rs 1,000 per day for the hard work put in, young farmers get disillusioned, Bhakta says adding cashew zone auctions have to be let out for a minimum of three years instead of annual leasing so that the distiller is motivated to invest in proper equipment. 

He also feels the government can also consider subsidizing the cost of distillery material.

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