‘Wave of cheer’: Meghalaya government legalises homemade wine
Putting an end to almost a two-decade-long demand for legalising the fledgeling but burgeoning local homemade wine-making, the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government on Thursday introduced the Manufacture and Sale of Home Made Fruit Wines Rules, 2020 for issuing of licenses to winemakers in the state. This was among a list of the seven agenda approved by the cabinet on Thursday.
“We have now formally created the rules where individuals can sell their homemade wines in the market,” chief minister, Conrad K Sangma told journalists after a cabinet meeting. He affirmed that this strategic move by the state government would go a long way in helping farmers producing a variety of fruits in the state to sell their products locally which can then be value added by the local winemakers.
The CM assured that there shall not be any heavy encumbrances on the local winemakers to encourage more productivity and generate employment as well. He said, “The state government has ensured that the ad valorem that is paid by these winemakers will be much lesser as compared to other products. Rs 100 per case will be the ad valorem fees and winemakers will not have to pay VAT,” he categorically stated, further adding, “we have also ensured that the license fee will be only Rs 7,500 and (it can be availed) by individuals from different cooperative societies or different companies who are interested.”
Welcoming the decision of the government, president of the Meghalaya Wine Makers Association Michael Syiem, who has been in the forefront of the demand since the beginning, told HT, “We are very happy at the decision today and we feel it is the rightful culmination of a long and arduous campaign by all stakeholders.”
He felt that the move will not only go a long way in boosting the horticultural sector of the state, tourism and generate revenue for the state exchequer but once it blossoms into a cottage industry, “it will also help generate much-needed employment”.
Syiem quipped, “Look at it this way. Amid all the chaos, anxiety, fear due to the ongoing pandemic, at least we have something to cheer about.”
18 years ago, on the second Saturday of November, Syiem’s Club, Forever Young Sports and Cultural Club organised the first-ever Wine Festival which has now grown into an annual event attracting winemakers and tourists from across the state and even other parts of the North East and the country who converge in Shillong every second Saturday of November to showcase and sell their homemade products.
Another senior member of the association and an accomplished winemaker in his own right, Bryan Daly Kharpran, felt that this was a right step in the right direction. He felt that such a move will streamline the entire process right from the beginning itself plugging existing loopholes and lacunae.
Speaking to HT, he said, “From now onwards there will be an established process of monitoring the process such as the use of correct ingredients (presently many use baking yeast instead of wine yeast), professional bottling with sealed caps and not just a silver foil over an open cover, wine is properly filtered and not cloudy as some turn out these days amongst many other aspects of the whole process.”
Kharpran was also very clear that this decision of the government will ensure that the final product would have a certain standard and quality within the framework of food and consumable guidelines.
“That way spurious products will remain off the shelf and people can truly savour quality and safe wine made out of the abundant varieties of indigenous fruits,” he asserted.
The plains and hills of Meghalaya are home to many fruits from which wine can be made such as Sohiong (Prunus Nepalenses), Soh Mon (Meyna Laxiflora), Soh Mylleng (Officininalis Orientalis), Soh Phan (jackfruit), Soh Phoh (Indigenous fruit of the pear family), Soh Brap (passion fruit), Mandarin orange, mulberry, litchi, ginger, banana, pineapple and strawberry, amongst a host of others fruits available in abundance.