ORGANIC MESSAGE FLYING HIGH… But no eco-friendly packaging!

All the way from the Republic of Congo in Africa…exhibits on view include lemon grass, pineapple jam, dry tapioca greens, hand-made soap! (Below) From Manipur comes fresh turmeric corm and the spiciest chili of the world called king chili…organically cultivated veggies from Goa in plenty for sale, be it various greens, hog plums (ambade), cluster beans, unripe banana, etc.

By Tara Narayan

The world is pursuing organic agriculture with passion because more and more folk are getting the message that we must drink and eat organic — organic fruit, vegetables, cereals, pulses, seeds, nuts…if we seek health and wellbeing. But alas, we think selfishly of ourselves only! We forget that it is Mother Earth who sustains us all. At the 16th Goa Food & Hospitality Expo at Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Stadium there was much to delight the organic mind and body but most of it came in fancy designer and not-so-fancy plastic packaging! On one hand we need to be organic and health-friendly in our drinking and eating lifestyles, but on the other hand we turn a blind eye to the fact that 99% of the organic produce we seek and patronize comes in plastic packaging! So can we clap with one hand while seeking our wellbeing with scant concern for Mother Earth’s wellbeing?

FIRST, the good news. There is quite a lot of organic produce around nowadays to take pleasure in and the movement for organic is growing in leaps and bounds. Organic agriculture is making inroads into our consciousness steadily. After all most of us reading all this know the importance of drinking and eating organic, fresh, local, minimally processed and cooked…that is of course if we seek better health parameters in youth and old age. At least our urban wealthy and upper middle classes have become aware of primary, secondary and tertiary relationships between what we put in our mouth and what we suffer from. A slew of degenerative diseases beginning with high blood pressure to diabetes to heart disease and cancer in every home more or less today.
Lifestyle statements are heading back to our grandparents time in the better and best sense of the words or so one would like to think. Witness the number of organic produce markets which have cropped up in urban India and in Goa. In Goa there are several groups now coming together to provide farm produce painstakingly farmed organically… fruit, vegetables, cereals, pulses, seeds, nuts. Even in the non-vegetarian sector we may now source farm-reared chicken, duck, and their eggs, along with a myriad super foods and beverages from apple cider to apple cider vinegar (with mother culture swimming in it) to kefir buttermilks and bottled kombuja tea just to mention a few here.
Goa Food & Hospitality Expo
A visit to the recent Goa Food & Hospitality Expo at Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Stadium last weekend (August 1 to 3, 2019) organized by Trinity Group’s Joseph Dias revealed how several of our states beginning with Uttarakhand, Tamilnadu, Manipur and even next door Maharashtra are promoting organic agriculture — with the use of more earth-friendly and consequently health-friendly fertilizers like panchagavya, oil seed residues mixed with cow dung, neem leaf dry and liquid mixes, for dealing with farm pests (they too want organic nutrients to prosper). Chemical fertilizers are on their way out even if some government departments continue to subsidize farmers for short-terms gains until the bitter lesson is learned that organic is best for long-term gains.

ORGANIC MESSAGE FLYING HIGH… But no eco-friendly packaging!

It was a treat of an expo offering a glimpse of organic agriculture making a headway in the fields as also market place. And for good measure right there upfront was a Republic of Congo tourism stall exhibiting Congo’s potential agricultural produce seeking a market in India — vegetable soaps, lemon grass sachets (so familiar to us, I bought a packet for 60), pineapple jam, intriguing bottled tondolo fruit juice (the smaller, oval, red tondolo fruit is akin to passion fruit within)…and intriguingly, “feuilles de manioc sechees” (dry tapioco greens). Congo with its old colonial time relationship with Belgium has for its official language French and its agricultural produce includes cassava, maize, rice, peanuts, plantains, potatoes, yams, wheat, sorghum, beans, soybeans, cowpeas, taro, sweet potato, avocado and more. Congo representative Gregoire N Beya (Secretary Administrative, in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore & Sri Lanka) here replied to a brief query that agriculture is a priority for their country and they would like more Indian tourists in Congo, they may safely visit his country. Move on to Nagaland and Manipur stall where large knobs of fresh ginger invited attention, and turmeric, the famous bhoot jaloka or king chili of the North-eastern states. Since it was the last day for exhibits, the in-charge here was happy to sell off some of the fresh ginger and excellent turmeric powder. Wonder what they did with the fresh turmeric tuber though! Khadi Natural from Delhi had a line-up of natural, Ayurvedic, handmade soaps and herbal beauty products but all of it in plastic packaging and at very upmarket prices (might as well remove the large picture of Mahatma Gandhi in the background!). Lots of virgin coconut oil is available in abundance as also cow’s ghee premium quality. At the Maharashtra Krushi Vidnyan Mandal (Kolhapur) stall one was told this is no common ghee but ghee from A2 desi cow’s milk — that’s why it is priced at4,000. The Desico-branded cow ghee here sounds like prized ghee and claims to be 100% lactose free and promoting “digestion, protects arteries, increases bone density, improves immunity, improves eye health, improves bone development, helps balance weight, provides nourishment, promotes healthy pregnancy, healing of wounds.”
TAMILNADU is promoting millets of all kind (alkaline grain in comparison to acidic wheat, educated consumers are tired of eating GMO or genetically modified wheat products). Interesting to note that the Cornitos people have been reading the message of organic wellbeing blowing in the wind! Apart from their large range of nacho crisps, taco shells and coated, flavoured nuts, they have recently put out very agreeable “vegetarian” Cornitos nacho in beetroot, spinach and mélange — `50 a packet but an absolutely “veggielicious” treat. “Veggielicious” appears on their promotional copy along with “gluten free”, “made from non GMO corn”, “cholesterol free” (that means no animal ingredients) and “cooked in corn oil.” The packet says 143 calories per serving and two servings in each 70g packet. Useful info!
A representative here said that they really do use non-GMO corn in their nacho, “We import the non-GMO corn from USA.” The story is that more and more folk are switching from unhealthy potato crisps/wafers to healthy corn crisps/wafers. There’s a confusing slew of Cornitos products out in the market, courtesy Haryana-based Greendot Health Foods. Naturally success stories have a lot of copycats and the company has many competitors in corn nachos, including Gujarat-based company Recorn Foods also offering corn chips, nacho chips, corn twists, etc.

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