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Arunachal Yak churpi gets GI tag, to boost conservation

Rich in protein, churpi is used as a substitute for vegetables by tribal yak herders in the vegetation-starved cold and hilly mountainous regions of the state. It is also mixed in vegetables or meat curry and is eaten with rice as a staple food in the tribal households. It is considered an integral part of the tangible cultural and tribal heritage of Arunachal Pradesh.
Last Updated : 05 October 2023, 00:18 IST
Last Updated : 05 October 2023, 00:18 IST

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Slightly sour and salty churpi, a naturally fermented cheese prepared from milk of Arunachali yak, reared in the high altitude areas in Arunachal Pradesh, has received the Geographical Indication (GI) tag, which boost the the hairy bovine species' conservation. 

Rich in protein, churpi is used as a substitute for vegetables by tribal yak herders in the vegetation-starved cold and hilly mountainous regions of the state. It is also mixed in vegetables or meat curry and is eaten with rice as a staple food in the tribal households. It is considered an integral part of the tangible cultural and tribal heritage of Arunachal Pradesh. 

The National Research Centre on Yak (NRCY) based at Dirang in Arunachal Pradesh, an agency under the Indian Council for Agriculture Research, in December last year had submitted an application seeking GI tag to boost its conservation. The GI tag, which was approved recently, would provide a geographical identification and prevent production of the items in other places. 

"The registration of yak churpi of Arunachal Pradesh as a GI will serve the cause of yak conservation and yak pastoralists' socio-economic upliftment. This assumes significance given the fact that the yak population in the country has been declining at a fast pace due to enormous hardships and dwindling gains associated with pastoral yak rearing," director of NRCY, Mihir Sarkar told DH on Wednesday.

Yaks are reared in high altitude areas in the Himalayan region but the Arunachali yaks are a unique breed in respect to their body shape, size, strain and weight. Arunachali yaks are also the only registered yak breed in India, Sarkar said. There are nearly 1,000 yak herders, mainly belonging to the Brokpa and Monpa tribe in West Kameng and Tawang districts. 

The breed is reared by tribal yak pastoralists who migrate along with their yaks to higher reaches (at an altitude of 10,000 ft and higher) during summers and descend to mid-altitude mountainous regions during winters. "Since the product is prepared at such a high-altitude, it is also expected to provide benefits to the tribal herders against cold and hypoxia besides providing enriched nutrition," Vijay Paul, principal scientist of NRCY, who was associated with the GI application process, said.

Yak milk is creamy white, thick, sweetish, fragrant and rich in protein, fat, lactose, minerals and more  solids than cow milk. Although raw yak milk is scarce due to the remote habitat of yak rearing, most of it is processed into traditional products like chhurpi (wet soft cheese), churkam (hard cheese) and Mar (butter), and a small portion of raw milk in the form of butter tea for their own consumption.

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Published 05 October 2023, 00:18 IST

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