Fruit juice made in Northeast creates buzz

Fruit juice made in Northeast creates buzz

Fruit juice made in Northeast creates buzz

Garo Hills in Meghalaya is more known for insurgency. But now winds of change are blowing and self-help groups (SHGs) are playing an important role in changing the lives of the people living there. One such venture is the successful launch and promotion of Chengga, a branded fruit juice.

The innovative and ingenious venture is making best use of untapped raw materials and the villagers of Rangmangre in West Garo Hills in Meghalaya have come up with their own fruit juice brand called Chengga.

This “Made in Northeast” endeavour has been an instant hit. Non-packaged fruit juices are already popular in India, but of late packaged juice market has witnessed a huge growth.

As Indians have started preferring juices over carbonated drinks, a number of companies are trying to capture the untapped market by introducing different variants of fruit juices. People of this remote village in Meghalaya’s West Garo Hills have banked on the rich fruit diversity of the area to come up with their own brand of fruit juice. The brand is named after a remote village in Garo Hills.

 Garo Hills, which are a treasure house of seasonal fruits, are the hub for sub-tropical and temperate fruits. Sub-tropical fruits include citrus species, pineapple, banana, papaya, guava and jack-fruit. Temperate fruits such as pear, peach and plums are also grown in parts of the Garo Hills. A wide range of indigenous fruits are also cultivated.

Different varieties of juices are made from fruits and wild berries available in the hills – from banana to pineapple and strawberry to  mulberry. Chengga has gone on to become an increasingly popular brand in Garo Hills and parts of Meghalaya, thanks to the villagers of Rangmangre under Gambegre development block, who conceptualised the idea of producing the juice in 2010.

The village, about 50 km from Tura, along the Indo-Bangladesh border has 55 households. It is a project village under the Ministry of DoNER’s North Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project for Upland Areas (NERCOMP).

“We are highly motivated by their activities and have decided to further assist them in marketing and promotion of the juice. We would also promote other products which can be promoted as indigenous brand,” said Jennifer Khumlo, an official from NERCORMP.

NERCORMP is a livelihood and rural development project aimed to transform the lives of the poor and marginalised tribal families in the North East. NERCORMP is a joint developmental initiative of the North Eastern Council (NEC), Ministry of DoNER, Government of India and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

The seeds of Chengga were sown by Rozillar M Marak for production of the juice. “We have a vast area under orange and pineapple cultivation. We felt that if we could start processing fruits, it will be viable and mooted the idea to NERCORMP. They provided us the technical assistance and we started the juice processing unit,” said Marak.

It is a small unit run by a local body known as Natural Resource Management Group (NaRM-G) and women SHG in the village. The unit produces about 1,500 litres of juice every month. “We produce juice from seasonal fruits also. The juices are made from available fruits in the village. We also produce juice out of wild berries, like mulberry,” he added.

Marak said that juice of Indian gooseberries is a hot favourite in the market as it has medicinal value. Chengga is now available in Meghalaya and parts of Assam.

The NaRM-G of Rangmangre manages a sustained income by selling  juices in the local market. A 500-ml bottle of juice is priced at Rs 100. Though the management of the juice production is handled by NaRM-G, the women SHG makes extra income by selling the juice.

“We get Rs 20 as commission on sale of each bottle. It is of great help for the rural economy of this place. Our region had been plagued by insurgency. In rural areas there is lack of development. This will also give inspiration to many to start similar venture,” Manila Marak, a member of women SHG, told Deccan Herald.

The juice processing unit has brought smiles to the faces of villagers. It is their sheer willingness, which has given them a space of their own. Their brand is also being promoted and marketed as “Neat Chengga Juice”, which is now going beyond Garo Hills.

According to a market survey on fruit juices by the Meghalaya government, the domestic players are competing well with the multinational companies.

“Entry of smaller brands is a very good sign for the overall juice market in India. Northeast India has big potential in terms of raw material for fruit juices, and if farmers in Meghalaya are encouraged to grow more fruits, the region can emerge as a potential hub of export of fruit juices to neighbouring countries,”  Khumlo further said.

Good news for Garo Hills has been that the success of Chengga has inspired many young farmers to devote more time and land to seasonal fruit orchards, thereby increasing the seasonal fruit yield. The lion's share of it will be used to double production of Chengga and make it a very powerful hyper-local brand.

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