The Strife torn State of Manipur, inspite of the unenviable tag of a disturbed area, has much more potential and unexplored potential than that of being one with the most prolific and industrious system for churning out militant groups, thought the tag is unlikely to come off anytime soon in the foreseeable future. On a brighter note, we have some of the most diverse and varied vegetables, fruits, pulses, cereals and grains. Condiments that has not yet been regular ingredients in Mainland India has been in use in the North East for centuries. The introduction of Korean channel “Arirang” revealed an astonishing similarity, both in the ingredients as well as in the methods of preparations, in the diets of the two regions. Our elders, much to our chagrin and resentment, used to refer to the imported hybrid vegetables and fruits as those from the “Block”, and preferred the local varieties of everything. That preference has now started to make sense, more than ever, with the perceptible difference in the aroma and taste between the imported hybrids and the local varieties. Anyone who had a friend or near one from outside as a guest in Manipur will surely have received compliments on the distinct aroma and taste of the dishes of the state. All these has been a clear indication of the unique qualities of the plants and vegetables grown on the soil of the State whose more than 70% of it’s population is still engaged in agriculture and other allied activities. So what does all these discussions point to? And how do we utilize these to the fullest? There is no doubt that the distinct aroma, varieties and extent of availability of these plants, herbs and vegetables has been confined to the local market. While the reasons are many and varied, yet it is pretty clear that there is an apparent lack of enthusiasm and earnestness on the part of the Government to explore and exploit markets outside the State and beyond. The latest confirmation of the interest shown by people outside the State for products grown in the State is the report about a certain person from the United States inquiring about the possibility of exporting the black rice (Chak Hao) through a processing factory in India, and this is just one instance. This positive development should be an eye opener of the potential the State holds for earning through exporting of it’s varied and unique agricultural products after due finishing processes. It would be a blunder and a shame for everyone if the State is reduced to a supplier of raw products only. The need of the hour is for developing a tertiary sector that provides value addition to the products and thus provides double benefit to those involved. The products are there. The steps to mass produce them, to process them and to market them needs a systematic approach that coordinates and complements each of the components in the chain of process. It is time to make a radical change in the approach towards agriculture from that of a subsistence one to that of a highly rewarding, financially lucrative and emotionally fulfilling occupation. That change needs to be initiated by those who are assigned just to do that, else our people will just be the farmers who produce the things others outside the State will buy who will then convert these raw materials into finished products who will then sell it to the State at an exorbitant price. Heard the story before? Got the drift?
William Gurumayum, Sub-Editor of Imphal Times is a resident of Sagolband Salam Leikai. He has been with Imphal Times since beginning. A avid adventure lover, writes mostly travelogue.