Mithilanchal's makhana may be hip, but its growers don't get ample returns


Darbhanga, Dec 4 (IANS) A famous saying in Mithilanchal which goes along the lines of "Pag-pag pokhar maach makhan, Madhur bol muski mukh paan; Vidya, vaibhav, shanti prateek, Itheek Mithil ki pehchaan" fairly describes its identity being closely entwined with pokhar (ponds), maach (fish), paan and makhana.

The demand for Mithilanchal's makhana is found across the country and abroad. Scientists have been developing new species by research but the farmers are unable to get the benefits they are entitled to due to unavailability of proper markets.

Makhana is cultivated in 11 districts of Bihar, including Darbhanga, Madhubani, Purnia, Kishanganj and Araria.

Bihar's Mithilanchal accounts for 90 per cent of the total production of makhana across the country.

According to the data, Makhana is cultivated in a 35,000 hectare area in the state.

The National Research Centre for makhana was established while keeping the production in view in Darbhanga.

After the establishment of this centre, changes have definitely been seen in the cultivation of Makhana.

Director of the centre Dr. Indu Shekhar Singh told IANS that the new technology had increased the yield. He said that the ponds there had more depth, causing a lot of seeds to remain in the pond.

He added that makhana is traditionally cultivated in ponds, but scientists have developed a new variety 'Swarna Vaidehi', which is benefiting the farmers.

Singh said that nowadays makhana is being produced by flooding one foot of water in the fields itself. Generally, it took 10 months to prepare the crop, but this species is now being cultivated in less time which has increased its production.

Usually makhana is planted in ponds in November-December, but Swarna Vaidehi is planted in December and the crop gets ready by the following August.

Scientists claim that the cost of production has decreased and its production has increased.

The people of Mithilanchal believe that aquatic products have an important role in its economic progress. They also talk about problems regarding it.

Amulya Singh of Darbhanga said that the production of paan, makhana and fish has been affected. He said that the main reason for it is the obstacles in marketing.

Singh added that Mithila could become prosperous if its products were marketed in a better way.

Makhana businessman and CEO of PLU Private Limited, Darbhanga, Rajeev Ranjan said that even though the region's makhana is exported from the country, the farmers were not benefited.

He said that the country receives foreign exchange worth crores annually from exporting makhana. He added that the traders sent their production to Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh.

Ranjan, who got associated with the industry after completing engineering from IIT, said that the prospects of increased demand for produce after the Geographical Indication (GI) tag should have created a festive atmosphere among the farmers, as it was expected to increase their income opportunities.

But in reality, the farmers complain that they do not get returns on their investment and that the price of makhanas has fallen in the market.

Manish Anand, another trader and co-founder of Mithila Naturals Private Limited, Madhubani, said that the amount of makhana being used today can be increased manifold by making it mandatory to serve its products in government programmes and hotels which would create a big market in Bihar itself.

However, in order to promote its quality at the national and international levels and to provide a bigger market, its use and its identity can be increased by organising small and big-scale events.


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